(written by Sam)
Early May has been good to us, weather-wise. Unfortunately, most of the crops aren’t growing as fast as we had hoped. Probably because the amendments we added a few weeks ago (especially the alfalfa pellets) haven’t had time to really break down and be available for the new plants to use them.
In the first row Adam planted some sunchokes, which haven’t come up yet. The first planting of lettuce is finally starting to take off in growth. Onions are also growing nicely. Adam put out irrigation drip hoses already, since the young plants are pretty vulnerable to getting too hot and dry. It doesn’t get too terribly hot here, but the long days can take a toll on seedlings.
Go plants, go!
After getting to play with the soil blocker at 10 Acres Farm where Adam helps out sometimes, Adam decided that he wants to start using soil blocks instead of the old plastic trays he’s been using the last few years. But soil blockers are EXPENSIVE! So Adam built his own out of short lengths of discarded PVC pipe and some bolts on round pieces of wood. It’s slow, but the soil blocks grow seedlings with better root structure (they can’t get root-bound like in a small plastic tray) and popping the seedlings out of the plastic trays is always a time-consuming chore, so I think we will make up for the extra time in the end.
For Mother’s Day, our broody hen hatched a few eggs! So far she’s doing great with them. She leads them around the cage, clucking to tell them where the food is, and keeps her feathers nice and fluffy so they can dart under her whenever they need to warm up. They are in a small outdoor cage inside the electro-net fence to be protected from aerial and ground predators. It will be interesting to compare these hen-raised chicks to the brooder-raised ones. Ideally, I’d love for all my chicks to be raised by hens, but because broody hens do not lay, that trait has been mostly bred out of chickens, so this is the only broody hen I’ve had all year. I wouldn’t be able to hatch as many chicks as I’d like if I had to rely only on hens. So I’ll have to do most of them in the “plastic hen” for now.
The ducks always make for some good stories.
We put the 4 young Khaki Campbells outside a couple of weeks ago, because (as I’ve mentioned before) ducks get SO much water everywhere that it is really hard to keep them in a brooder without it stinking to high heaven. So as soon as they started getting their body feathers, I put them outside in a partly sheltered enclosure with the chickens (only took me 4 hours to build this one out of scrap wood! I’m getting better at this.)
But there was still the one Welsh Harlequin duckling who had hatched a couple weeks after the Khakis. I had tried a couple of times to put her in the brooder with the other ducks, and each time the attacked her! And she was so much smaller than them that I was worried they might actually kill her. So she’s been living with the 6 chicks who were hatched by a teacher in Sidney for her class and then returned to me. The smallest Khaki lived with her and the chicks for a week or so (until even she got too big for the small brooder), so I hoped that she had imprinted on the duckling and not on the chicks, but I wasn’t too hopeful.
Yesterday, we noticed that the Welsh Harlequin duckling (still living with the chicks and making a huge mess in the brooder) was almost the same size as the Khakis, so we decided to give integration another go. At first, the young Welsh Harlequin was more interested in us humans than the other ducks, and the Khakis were quite offended by her presence and started attacking her again. But the attacks weren’t as effective this time, and the Welsh Harlequin didn’t seem to be getting hurt, so we just watched from a distance. Over the course of the afternoon, the Welsh Harlequin kept getting closer to the cluster of Khaki ducklings. When she got too close, they’d get up and chase her. But the attacks got less and less energetic, and the Welsh Harlequin got closer and closer to the other flock. By evening, she was completely integrated! Yay!
Our batch of weird eggs (turkey, goose, and duck) are due to start hatching this weekend. I’m excited! I hope it goes well.
We said goodbye to our dog Roscoe. He’s been with us in apartments and houseshares, cities and farms, deserts and rainforests, and moved across the continent with us twice. His happiest moments were running in fields, taunting and being chased by our bigger dog, Molly. And though he was scared of pretty much everything possible, he was a totally sweet and loving dog. We will miss you, dear Roscoe.