Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Chicks Are 4 Weeks Old Today

I can't believe it's already been a month! 2 weeks to go until the next 5 come- they will be about a week old than the bunch we have now- we'll be getting 3 buff orpingtons and 2 barred rocks to add to our flock.

Moose Chili

Last night I made moose chili for dinner. This is not an uncommon meal in our house, I also make a mean deer steak- fried with onions and butter. Many people feel that eating wild animals is cruel, even gross. To this I say "are you kidding me?". To all of the people out there who eat meat, do you have any idea where it comes from? What it ate? What it's quality of life was? I commend the people who seek out free range/ grass fed etc. meats from local farms. For me, if I am eating beef or chicken or pork, this is the only way to go. To all of the people who would rather not acknowledge that that steak on their plate came from a cow, who was fed the wrong feed (cows should not live on corn) and lived in cramped quarters, and then slaughter in a very inhumane way, shame on you.
     When you start to look at quality of life though, you can not tell me that a moose, who has lived it's entire life doing just as it is supposed to do, does not have a great quality of life. When an experienced and respectful hunter shoots one, it's death should be instant. This is as free range and organic as it gets, people. I have complete respect for the animal that filled my belly last night, and that will continue to on many nights to come.
     Many hunters hunt for sport. I find this shameful. The taking of any life just for fun is just plain wrong. On the other hand, hunters who hunt for meat are a respectable bunch. They know how to kill an animal with the least amount of suffering possible, and they know how to use as much of it as they can. My Grandfather, for instance, who will be 85 this fall, got a deer and a moose this fall. I eat the meat, him and my grandmother eat the meat, and so do numerous other people. It will all be used. For people that hunt and feel they can not eat all of the meat themselves, there is a program here called Hunters for Hunger which allows you to donate part of the meat to local food pantries.
       Before you judge those of us who eat off the land, please take a good look into where your meat came from. Know that it is not just "meat". It was once a living animal with feelings like you.
a young moose near Eustis

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Recent Photos

The chicks- left to right: suspected roo, to be named Ricky or Julian, Racy, Raspberry, Florence and Speckle.

Things are growing!

the first poppy

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Garden, Part Three: The Bugs

A few friendly bugs- beneficial ladybugs.
   There are many things to take in to consideration when planting a garden. You need to make sure your soil is fertile. You need sun. You need a good water supply. You also need to know a little about the climate where you live, along with information about what you plant, and when to plant, and so on and so on. You would think that once you had all of this figured out, you would be good to go, but no! Once you have a beautiful lush garden growing before you, you will then have to wage war against pests! I grew tomatoes in my garden during year number one, and they were looking quite lovely, until I noticed the alarmingly large florescent horn worm eating through one of them. I was disgusted will the nerve this bug had, how rude to eat through MY tomato!

       I figured this was an easy fix- just fling him off and squish him. Well, first off, he would not leg go! this little bugger was very strong. The second problem was that when I bent down to go about removing this one, I noticed all of his buddies. I was furious! I went and grabbed my gloves and began ripping their fat bodies off my plants, and made a big pile of them. Once I was satisfied that I had them all, I found a big rock, placed it on top of the pile, and stomped. In my murderous rage, I did not stop to think of how this might end, not for them, as I wanted them dead, but for I stomped, their neon green slime splattered everywhere, including all over my clothes, my face, and even in my mouth. YUCK.

         On the second year, I had a new pest to contend with. The Colorado Potato Beetle. What a jerk. One morning when I was out pulling weeds I found some bring orange eggs on the underside of one of my Norland Red Potato leaves. Quick research told me that these belonged to the aforementioned potato beetle. I removed the leaf and smooshed the eggs. I thought I had won that battle. about a week later, the war began when I discovered this beetles larva squirming around and eating my potato plants! My first line of defense was to crawl up and down my rows of potatoes and squish the things, as I strive to keep my garden as close to organic as possible.

     As I crawled up and down the rows, squishing, and swearing, I realized just how personally offended I was by the gaul of these bugs to come and attempt to destroy the plants I had put so much energy into, and that would, as long as I won these battles, feed me in the not so distant future.
      Along with the hand squishing, I mixed up a home made insecticide, which had been sucessful in the past for me in controlling some small pest issues. My recipe includes a little vegetable oil, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and Dr. Bronner's peppermint castile soap all mixed with some water and sprayed onto the affected plants.
       This was not working! I finally had to go to the garden center and ask some advice. I ended up buying a product called Spinosad, which is approved for organic use, and let me tell you what, that did the trick! So long potato beetles!

      Each year I have gone through struggles with my garden, but each one of these struggles has given me a new tool in my gardening tool box. Learning through trial and error has really made the lessons stick.  Over the past 2 weeks, I have been slowly getting this years garden in, and praying that some new pest does not show up at my doorstep!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

My Garden, Part Two: The Boulder

       Before you can grow anything in a garden, you have to do a lot of prep work. First you need the land, then you need to clear the land, and then you plant, right? Maybe for some people!  I picked the rockiest piece of ground in a 30 mile radius to grow my vegetables in. Small stones and pebbles are easy enough to deal with, along with the grapefruit and cantaloupe size rocks. I can even handle picking up the watermelon size pieces that seem be just under the surface about every 3rd step I take when walking though the garden. The trouble seems to start when I hit the extra large rocks, which are not rocks at all, I like to think of them as boulders.

I suppose I could plant around these behemoths, and I did for one year, but on the second year I decided at least one of them had to go. I started to dig around the monster that lay about a foot beneath the soil in bottom right side of my garden with a shovel. As I cleared more and more dirt from on top and around the thing, I switched tools. I stuck the pitchfork into the ground and tried to pry the rock up. It did not move. More digging with the shovel. The second time I tried prying with the pitchfork I knew that I was under it! It moved, just about one centimeter, but it did move! I continued to stick the pitchfork in and pry, and the rock continued to move, ever so slightly. I grabbed the shovel in my free hand and jammed it into the space between the rock and the earth as I made space with the pitchfork, and then pushed with all of my might. I could see that this was not going to get me anywhere. The hole was too deep for me to move the rock out. I stopped for a minute, and came up with a plan. I grabbed 2 two by fours.
It's out!!

While lifting with the shovel and pitchfork, I jammed one of the two by fours into the space that was made. I now had a lever! using the first two by four, I levered the rock up a few inches, and jammed the second two by four into the new space. I was then able to slowly inch the rock to the edge of it's hole. Now it was time to push...and pull. I pulled and pushed on this rock with all of my strength I had completely given up on moving it out of my garden at the time, I just wanted it out of the hole! After one last push ( which I thought could have caused my eyes to pop out of my head) it finally rolled free of the hole. What an accomplishment! The boulder most definitely weighed over 200 pounds. It still sits on the edge of the garden. I like to tell people that I dug it out of the ground all by myself.
"the boulder" remains at the edge of the garden.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Chicks first time outside

I don't have too much to say here, just thought I'd post a few pictures of the chicks on their first adventure outside! We found out fast that the can,  in fact, get right out of the pen, but, when they did, they went right back  in!

My Garden

     We moved into this house 4 years ago this coming fall. Obviously, no time to plant a vegetable garden, but let me tell you what, I had plans! I had ideas about where it might go, and started imagining how big it might be. Being fall in Maine though, there was not much else I could so because any place I might possibly be able to grow anything was soon to be covered in several feet of snow.
      My birthday is in February, and one of things I asked for was a Johnny's Seeds gift certificate. While it was freezing and snowing outside, I started my seed order. I ordered seed potatoes, peas, beans, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, corn, beets, tomatoes, celery, onions and leeks. I watched my planting chart, and started things inside as instructed. By the time spring came around, I had plenty of seedlings growing in my bedroom window, but no garden to plant them in!

  The process of clearing sod ( the grass on the lawn, essentially) to expose the soil can be done in several different ways, and I am sure that I picked the hardest one of all, which is to cut into the ground with an edger, and then rip the grass up by hand. Once this process started, the projected size of my garden shrank several times. The first year I planted I ended up with two smallish side by side gardens. I planned on only one, of course, but I got bored of ripping up the sod on one side, and decided to start on the opposite side. The process was so arduous and time consuming that I never made it to the middle.

"the boulder"

some of the smaller hail

Of course, once the sod is removed, the rocks need to be removed too. I think I may have picked the rockiest piece of ground on my property to plant a garden. Not only were their stones of various sizes, but their were what I would classify as small boulders! After most ( or some!) of the rocks were gone, it was time to till, then fertilize, then plant.
first corn!

    This summer will mark my third year of vegetable gardening here. I have battled the soil, the rocks, the pests   (oh the pests!) not enough rain, too much rain, and even baseball sized hail, and still have had something to show for it. Each year it's getting better. Eventually the "two gardens" became one, and slowly, through the ancient scientific process of trial and error, I am learning to contend with all of the challenges mother nature throws my way.

Monday, May 14, 2012

RIP sick chick

Today is a sad day. Of our original 6 chicks, there are now only 5. Late last week I noticed one acting off, and to spare everyone the depressing details, we were not able to nurse her back to health. Joe and I both cried. We buried her out back near a big rock, I even picked a few violets for her. At least the poor baby is not suffering anymore. I am quite aware that this is something that I am going to have to get used to if I think I'm going to be raising any kind of animal, but it is still slightly heartbreaking to lose one.

  The 5 remaining chicks are all growing, active and healthy. They are all starting to get their own personalities- sort of!  We have: the two white rocks affectionatly known as "the yellow ones" and then the 3 remaining aracaunas go by :fluff head", "racing strip" and "speckle head".

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Underrated Rainy Days

There is nothing I love more than a nice sunny day, but honestly, rainy days can be quite beautiful as well, especially now that everything is greening up.  It's hard to explain exactly what it is that makes it so beautiful- which I find is often the case with nature. Maybe it's the fact that the new leaves pop so much against the foggy backdrop, or maybe it's the way you can almost see things grow as they suck up the much needed water. Whatever it is, the only way to really appreciate it is to get outside! This is not one of those things that can be enjoyed to it's fullest by sitting in your living room and looking out the window. Even if it is pouring rain like nobodies business, I challenge you to suit up in all of your rain gear and get out on a trail, in the woods, or even just your backyard, and appreciate the unique energy that comes from a day like this.
-The chicks are one week old today! They all seem to be healthy, and I'm noticing the feathers in their wings getting bigger. Yesterday I gave them a little scrambled egg, and boy was the fun! One of the girls grabbed a piece, and when everyone else noticed she had some new and interesting food, the chased her around, very entertaining for me!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Spring, in general

         Spring in Maine is really a funny thing. It can be lovely and awful at the same time. This being said, there are many more things that I like about spring rather than dislike, for instance, when the snow has all melted, and when the first buds on the willows start to show. They remind me of something Bob Ross would have painted with a dry big round brush, more yellow than green, almost like a glowing halo sitting atop the bare branches. I also get very excited when certain wildflowers start to bloom, I feel the need to point them out to anyone I might be with. First are the Stinking Benjamin's (Purple Trillium) There are literally hundreds of them in the woods line around the house. Everything else is mostly gray and brown at this point, so it is extra exciting to see the carpets of these woodland flowers make their way up through the earth.
       Gray and brown are two of the things that can tend to make spring more on the awful side. The mud and the bare branches, although a change in scenery from the dirty snow can tend to wear out their welcome rather quickly.  There are times when it feels like years from the end of the last bits of snow until the time when all of the leaves and lawns turn green. It's not actually the colors themselves, its the anticipation, and the waiting that can be so hard to handle. There are things that make it somewhat easier- making maple syrup for example, or pawing through seed catalogues and planning out a garden, but most of the time, no matter what you do,  it still feels like ages for spring to really happen.

    And once it happens, it happens so fast, you almost can't remember that it wasn't this way all along!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Spring chicks

Ever since I can remember, I have wanted chickens. I bugged my grandfather when I was younger, and since I have been married, I have bugged my husband. It was never the right time or place, but since we have been living in our house for 3 years now, with plenty of space, this was the year! He finally said "go ahead" so, before he could change his mind I placed my order though Paris Farmers Union in Winthrop. I ordered two Plymouth Rocks and four Aracaunas. Looking back, I wish I had ordered about 4 more ( why, I do not know, it just seems like more chickens might be better!)
   Progress is being made on the coop- slow progress. My Grandfather (who will be 85 this year) is helping Joe. The thing should be done by the time the girls are ready to go outside.

 On another note, My Grandfather found me this lovely teakettle- in a dumpster at his sisters house. He could not find the top, so he suggested I plant a flower in it- it will " go with" the new chickens...!