Sunday, February 15, 2009

So many eggs!

Here is a sure fire way to know that the seasons are changing, even though it is only 40 degrees outside:  everyone, Pauline, Hilda, Louise, and Lena, are laying again.  I am swamped with eggs.  With 3 to 4 eggs a day, it is easy to get way behind on egg consumption.  I'm baking!  I'm poaching! I'm frying! I'm quiching!

Although they are all officially "brown" eggs, I can tell who laid each one by the color and shape.  Lena and Pauline lay torpedo shaped eggs.  Pauline's are almost purplish brown, and Lena's are very pale, the lightest of the bunch.  Hilda's and Louise's are more egg shaped, with Hilda's being darker in color than Louise's.  All are large and beautiful and tasty.  

The hens really eat a lot.  We give them free choice laying pellets in their feeder, then supplement once or twice a day with a treat of mixed scratch grains (mostly corn).  I also pull up chickweed and lespedeza weeds from the yard for them, and give them all the greens trimmings from the garden.  No matter how much we feed them, they always act as though they are starving.  I guess they fit right into the family:  they love good food.

You also can see the new lettuce transplant seedlings that are growing in the attic under grow lights.  Today I want to plant some tuscan kale seeds as well.  I am a little late again this year on transplants, but not as late as last year!

The sugar snap peas are up in the garden, and I am thrilled.  Soon the gardens will be filled with fresh salad greens and growing vegetables, and it will be the best time of the year for feasting.  (Although having access to sea scallops harvested about a quarter mile from the house is pretty amazing right now, I have to admit.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Frozen citrus trees; rooster woes

I thought you might like to see how the citrus trees did in the bitter (19 to 23 degrees for multiple days) cold of last week.  Remember, this was the third extended run of bitter cold this winter, so I knew that there was a good chance we could lose the trees all together.  I am, however, happy to report that it looks like we have lost only leaves and branch tips, and that even the young grapefruit tree looks to have survived.  Here you see the now dead branch tips on the orangequat and the severe cold burn on the leaves and tip of the main stem of the grapefruit.  Amazingly, the tangerine showed absolutely no damage.  If they can survive this winter, while young, I have greater hope that they will make it through future winters as they mature.

Now for the hard topic.  You know how I said that Expresso, the rooster, might have to go if he started getting too roostery?  Well, he now shows aggression whenever we come to the pen, even reaching out through the egg door to try to peck us.  In addition, he is starting to get a bit too rough with the hens, especially sweet, friendly Hilda, who is now almost bald around her neck and showing some feather loss around her wings.  So the verdict?  Expresso must go.  Since we don't yet have a place who wants him just for his beauty and genes, he may need to go to someone who will appreciate his good taste (or is that taste good?).

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cover Up

I have tender new strawberry plants, and they have not had the opportunity to go properly dormant. They have been out only a short time, in fairly warm weather. To help protect them from the forecast 21 degree temperatures tonight, I have surrounded them with some loose straw. Lets hope this is enough! If I had more, I would have covered them more deeply. It is the crown at the soil surface I want to protect; all is not lost if a leaf or two freeze. I don't have anything on hand to protect my citrus fruits, but they already have been exposed to temperatures this low during the last few weeks, so hopefully they won't be more damaged. All I have left to do is keep my toes warm by the fire tonight.