Monday, July 30, 2007

And Who Is Your Mama?

This has happened before on our farm. A nesting female gets a bunch of eggs added to her clutch, by other enterprising females. Leading in this mischief are our guineas, dropping their future progeny under turkeys and chickens (I am sure they would have dropped them under any other bird, if we had them!). Guineas are not opposed to sit on their own eggs, but sharing the task is so much more fun! Our only remaining Bourbon Red Turkey ( who is listed on the Watch List by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (a great organization, BTW) has diligently sat on her nest, only to hatch 11 baby guineas, and not a single turkey! So much for the recovery of the breed. Her unlucky boyfriend, who already has a bad rap due to his aggressive nature, is now really walking a very thin line. Not a single baby turkey combined with bad temper! Someone is headed to the pot....
What is even more interesting, we have a number of lavender guineas (light-colored ones), and a single very elderly black polka-dot guinea. And the chicks are mixed-colored - so the senior has finally passed his genes on!
The mom is very happy, strolling around with her family. While chasing after her with a camera for this photo, I noticed that her one-week old infants are already catching and eating grasshoppers. The hoppers are about half their size, so these kids are fearless and quick!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Goats and Peaches

Goats LOVE peaches. And apples, plums, pears. Mine don't like fruit that is cut into smaller pieces, no thanks! They prefer to put the entire peach in their mouth and then stand with it, mouth full, eyes bulging from impending pleasure, rolling it from side to side. They remind me of people sucking on ice cubes. Kind of uncomfortable, but too good to spit out!

Goats steal peaches, too. Just like dogs steal your sandwich if you hold it in your hand - they come to you and gently remove it. Gulp. Gone!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grasshoppers - Not in My Garden

Looking out my window at the incredible diversity of pollinators floating in an amorphous cloud around the deep Georgia O’Keefe pink Hollyhock blooms reminds me to be grateful for the gift of good healthy land – a land without grasshopper problems. It is not that I don’t have them around - the hum of life in the garden is composed of many sounds, and one of them is that of a grasshoppers’ chewing. But their damage is minimal, and their presence is hardly noticeable and our place is a little green island of few grasshoppers thanks to thirteen vigilant Guinea Fowl.

Noisy, untamed and funny looking bird, guineas have a preference for high protein foods – grasshoppers, caterpillars and larvae. The chicks hatch midsummer, and are available in feed stores. Guineas work great in the country side, where they patrol large territories without much regard to property boundaries. If there is a grasshopper to be consumed over a fence, the guineas will cross over and have a meal! Turkeys do much the same, except they are more prone to predation by dogs and coyotes, while guineas escape time after time with just some feathers ruffled. For urban dwellers - invite songbirds to your yard! These charming vegetarians feed their chicks exclusively protein-based diet, which means grasshopper-free gardening accompanied by a song of a bird.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harvesting Onions

Each year we plant 300 onion bulbs for the July-August harvest that lasts us through all the canning and cooking and into late March of the following year. We order onion sets at Dixondale Farms, and plant them as soon as our ground can be worked. Our fertilizer is goat manure (overwintered) and lots of mulch - and after a few months large sweet onions emerge, wheelbarrow full of them. 

They are laid to cure in the shade, on our back porch, where they remain for a few weeks. No hurry to move them anywhere, besides there is hardly any cool spot in this heat anyway, so they lay and rest and offer their pretty looks. 

Once onions are cured (their skins dried and necks completely gone), we move them into our mudroom - which is the coolest and darkest room in our house. There, in dry cool setting, our onions will sit in their pretty baskets and then move to the kitchen, one by one - to omelets, stir-fry, soups, meat dishes and salads. 

Monday, July 2, 2007

Garlic Season

Garlic is nearly finished, its leaves yellowing, bulbs swollen and juicy. This year I am growing about 80 linear feet of garlic (it is not linear in my garden, naturally... it is a 'mandala' garden). It is my expectation that this quantity should be enough for the year, plus some for seeding in the fall, plus some to give away. It must be harvested in the next two weeks or so, once the leaves collapse on the ground. Fresh garlic will be laid in shade to cure for two-three weeks, then braided and stored.

I got the seed garlic (which is just simply garlic bulbs) at the local farmers' market. Best planted in October in our climate (one clove at the time), garlic is very simple to grow - set in the garden bed, mulched, and watered, it will sleep through the winter, emerge in the spring and be finished by the Independence day. Easy! On the photo the first row of plants is garlic, then tomatoes (so small that they cannot be seen), then onions, brassicas and more garlic. The twigs are used to support tomatoes.