Sunday, January 24, 2010

Son of Khan

Changing of the Guard

This is Squanto. He is the son of Khan, my original rooster. Khan was a Cuckoo Maran who was the king of my barnyard for about two years. He overstayed his welcome by getting mean and aggressive. I have lots of kids roaming the farm from time to time and didn't want to worry about a ten pound rooster attacking little kids! I had to end his reign and did so in a dignified and painless way. Khan was buried in the woods. I named him Khan because of my deep interest in Central Asia and all the powerful leaders who controlled vast areas of Asia.

Ruth named Squanto today, after snapping this picture. His coloring reminded her of Native Americans and she wanted a solid name for him. Squanto was the Native American who helped the Pilgrims during their first few years in the New World. I'm sure we owe Squanto and his People much more than the naming of a rooster, but it is an honor to call him Squanto.

Squanto's mother is a Partridge Cochin, maybe Broody, the hen who hatched him! I want to believe that, so I will say that is true.

Thinning the Herd

I sold 19 hens and a rooster on Saturday. That leaves me with 23 hens and Squanto. I tend to dislike roosters, but I am taking a different tack with Squanto. I pick him up several times per week and walk around with him. He doesn't like that at all, but I want to see if he'll end up being less aggressive than his poppa.

I had 43 hens. That felt like too many to me. Each spring I hatch out a batch of chicks in my classroom and wanted to have the room for the newbies. A friend of mine let me know of a family that lost their whole flock recently and wanted to buy mature and productive hens, so I took the plunge and sold 19 hens and one rooster. It was really fun to watch the young boys race around the barn trying to catch chickens. If you have never tried to catch a chicken, you have got to put that on your life's to-do list.
Should I hatch out Green Barn chicks?, or should I order some interesting eggs from a hatchery?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Seven Month Itch

I'm not sure if the number seven is the right one, but it sounded close. I am ready to get the garden going right now! I have plans to add additional beds and improve the existing ones. I have a ton of nicely composted chicken coop litter that I mixed with some grass clippings and maple leaves. I plan to mix that into the beds as soon as the ground will let me. I put some "raw" chicken litter on the beds last fall and hopefully that will mix in nicely and not be too "hot."

Are you feeling the same as I am? I know many of you have kids still living at home and they can really keep your mind occupied with all of their busy-ness. However, for me, I have a 28-ish year old daughter living in New York City, and a 27-ish year old son performing on a Princess cruise ship bouncing around the Hawaiian Islands. That leaves my wife Ruth and me probably a little more time to goof off than those with children responsibilities.

Ruth bought me a Gardening magazine the other day and there are some nice articles on pairing plants together, bed rotation plans, ideas on what to grow and how to keep the garden relatively pest free without dousing it with Dow Chemical products.

I spent a few productive hours perusing the Johnny's seed catalogue and made a list which will require another farm! I will probably add and subtract from this list as the next few weeks go by. I want to grow a lot of vegetables this summer, especially green beans, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. There are about twenty other vegetables, herbs, etc. on my list, but I don't want to bore you.

The Kitchen Garden in Winter

There are eight nice beds in this garden, which is between our house and the barn. I plan on extending all of them by four feet or more, and maybe adding two other 4' x 8' beds in-between some of the beds. This garden is surrounded by a circular driveway and a "still-not-completed" fence. I plan on covering the fence with climbing vegetables like beans, cukes and peas. It may end up looking a bit untidy, but hopefully it will yield lots of meals!

Like me, the garden needs a little bit of a slumber to get re-energized for another year of productivity. I am going to test the pH this year and see what exactly is going on out there.

Since I live in Michigan, and the "Three Fires" Native Americans lived in this vicinity, I am thrilled to use their way of gardening on land they once roamed. We have a little woodland, spring-fed pond and I want to believe that it was used by the Potawatomi and the Ojibwa. Ruth, Peter and I picked a lot sweet corn last summer and I am going to plant way more of it this year! The squash and beans did not do very well in here, but I plan on making a few changes this year to try to help them a little more. (2009 was a poor year in Michigan for all squashes!). I left most of the corn stalks in the ground. I couldn't bear to lose them last fall and they looked rather decorative for all of the Fall holidays.

When will you begin your garden planning? Maybe most of you are way ahead of me!!
Well, I'm off to find all the stuff I'll need to start seedlings in March and April. Hmmm, lighted Plant Cart, seeds, good starter mix, watering can. It was 2 degrees F (-17 C) last night and we have 7 inches of snow on the ground.
I may be just a tad early? Maybe you need to just come in for some hot coffee, or perhaps a spot o' tea?