Friday, December 23, 2011

It's a Christmas miracle!

Look you guys! It's an egg!

Why is this a Christmas miracle? Because I cannot remember the last time one of the chickens laid an egg. It's been months. They stopped when they started molting in the fall (around the time the Coco finally stopped being broody, naturally), and even though they've had their feathers back for a while, the nest box has remained empty, thanks to the near-absence of daylight this time of year.

I was quite giddy (and a little "I-told-you-so") when I showed the egg to Jeff, because he had started muttering last weekend about how "I can't remember the last time I had a fresh egg" and "I guess we're running a retirement home for chickens, now." Ha!

I knew they would start laying again, eventually. I understand why they can't molt and lay (it requires too much energy to replace most of your feathers), and it's an episode I'm happy to put behind us, with no photographic evidence as reminders. There are few things uglier than a molting chicken. (If you've seen a molting chicken, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't...well, just nod and agree with me.) When they get to the point where they lose the last of their long tail-feathers, they look like small fluffy dogs with docked tails..and chicken heads. And that's just all kinds of wrong.

But they are quite cute again, especially little Bob in all of her blue beachball-ness. I would have taken photos, but the light was going and even this egg photo didn't turn out the best. I'll try next week if we have a sunny day.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bountiful gardens's little videos like this that make me a bit sad that I haven't had as much time to devote to my urban farm as I did before going back to school. I love this garden! It's practical and makes use of every inch of space!

As little time as I've spent in my veggie patch, I've spent even less time blogging about it. Sheesh! I'm just horrible. I had a lot of plans for the garden this summer, and most of them fell by the wayside. The good news is that, with Jeff's help (and he was a HUGE help before he got busy with projects like his summer class, painting the house, etc.) we did get a lot of seeds planted in the spring. Not everything we planned on, and we didn't do very well at planting succession crops (or seeds for a fall/winter garden, for that matter), but we ate well for much of the summer. Here's what we had lots of:

  • Lettuce
  • Kale and other dark leafy greens
  • String beans
  • Peas
  • Summer squash (three kinds)
  • Cucumbers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots and beets (in lesser amounts)

The big surprise of the season was the cucumbers. I've had trouble growing them some years, but this year the TWO plants that made it (only about 1 in 4 of the seeds I planted actually sprouted, and slugs nipped off a few of those when they were still seedlings) produced like gangbusters. It made up for the end-of-summer lack of lettuce, as I turned to making salads from a whole huge diced cucumber mixed with a large handful of halved cherry tomatoes, dressed with oil & vinegar, salt & pepper and a little crumbled feta cheese.
I also want to say this to anyone in Seattle who whines "you can't grow tomatoes in Seattle": That's a load of bull. We had one of the coldest spring-to-mid-summer periods on record, and I have tomatoes coming out of my ears. Not just cherry tomatoes, either...slicers! And let me tell you, my tomato plants were late to get started from seed, late to get planted out, and then they thrived on benign neglect. They did get regular water (thanks to the drip irrigation system Jeff put in this spring) and I did plant them where they get a full-day's sun (that's just common sense) and I do plant them inside Wall-O-Waters (it's always a good idea in this climate to do something to give the heat-loving babies a little extra of what they want (that can mean planting them near a south- or west-facing wall, putting cages with clear plastic or row cover fabric around them, surrounding them with milk jugs filled with water, etc.).
I've never had a problem getting ripe tomatoes, and I've gardened in the Seattle area for 12 years. Really, cucumbers are more heat-loving than tomatoes, which is why I was shocked that we have so many this year.

In the past, I've had time to grow vegetables more intensively. That's not in the cards now, or for the next few years while I'm in grad school AND working. I could feel all sad and guilty about this quite easily, but I've accepted that I can't do everything and do well at each thing. It's still very important to me to produce at least some of the food that my household of two eats. When I eventually have more time, I'd like to experiment with year-round vegetable gardening and see how much of what we eat can come from our own labor. I also refuse to obsess about not getting into the garden to pick everything. That's the great thing about having chickens...all sorts of things that would have gone to waste now go into the chicken coop. Figs, tomatoes, lettuce, carrot and beet tops...they LOVE them! And it makes for more nutritious eggs.

I will do a chicken update this weekend. I promise!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Double entendres

Jeff was buying some carrots at Whole Foods yesterday. When the (female) cashier asked him if he would like her to cut the carrot tops off, he replied, "No! My ladies love them."

She just looked at him for an awkward moment.

"My chicken ladies," he said, clearing up the confusion (which could have been construed as sexist or even illegal, depending on how far your mind goes).

(And indeed they do love them. Carrot tops are one of their most favorite treats. I always cut them up into tiny pieces so they don't try to swallow a whole, long, top. Chickens are not very bright and often place their self-preservation efforts in the wrong basket, so to speak.)

"You have chickens!" she exclaimed! "I love chickens! I want chickens!" 

She started to press for details about the coop, but she is a cashier and it was lunchtime and their was a line. "I'll have to ask you about it another time."

"You know where to find me. I'm in here every day." And, no he's not kidding. Sometimes he's in Whole Foods three times a day.

And now, a gratuitous photo of Lady Marmalade's tail feathers: