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Third and Final Hatch

The third and final hatch for 2019 of Silver and Silver x Black Ameraucana chicks has completed.  This time we had a 100% hatch rate, 26 babies.  I’m very pleased with this batch, lots of nice silver type birds.  The little ones are now two days old.  They all seem strong and healthy, running around, eating and drinking well.  In about five days these guys will join their bigger siblings in the chick coop and all the chickens will be out of the house.

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Garden In

I got the garden in about 10 days ago and things are starting to sprout.  This is the most exciting time in gardening for me:  the babies emerging.  We’ve had plenty of rain, although it’s not been as warm and sunny as most plants like until just recently.  A couple days of sun really made the seedlings pop.  Before I tilled the garden I saved the volunteers, little plants that sprouted from seeds produced last fall.  I got a volunteer sunflower, a head lettuce and two bachelor buttons.

The started plants I buy at a greenhouse are also in. This year I purchased Early Girl tomatoes and purple sweet peppers.  The tomatoes may look innocent right now but before long they will become a jungle.  This year I got some tomato cages which I will set soon.  These are designed to hold recumbent plants up in the air, keeping the fruit cleaner and elevating them out of the reach of rodents (hopefully!)

Something just happened to one of the little pepper plants.  There were six yesterday morning, but in the afternoon one had been nipped off about one inch above the surface and the leaves were left scattered to wizen on the ground.  I’m hoping the stub remaining might continue to grow.

Not sure what would have pulled a stunt like this.  There are no tracks, no evidence of the perpetrator of this crime. 

The corn is just emerging, the sprouts about 2″ tall.  With luck it will reach eight feet and produce two ears per stalk of indian corn for fall decorating.  The weather has been a bit chilly and damp for corn.  The crop likes heat and high humidity.  June is usually full of that sort of weather.  I hope so.  I need these to be knee high by the Fourth of July.

This year I’ve planted lots of wax bush beans.  They are emerging well.  Sure hope the pepper murderer doesn’t start on them!  I want to can a couple dozen pints of beans this year if the plants cooperate.  Here is a baby bean just beginning to unfold.

Once more I’ve planted those strange tendril peas.  My granddaughters and I love to eat the peas raw right off the vine.  These peas are masses of curling tendrils with hardly any leaves.  They hold on to each other and don’t require supports to grow off the ground.  I’ve planted mine right beside the garden fence.  They will quickly grab onto the slats and haul themselves all the way to the top.  These pea sprouts are about one inch high.

My garden is planted to three types of pumpkins:  field for Halloween, small, sweet ones for pie and mini Jacks for fall decorating.  So far the field pumpkins have begun emerging.  These can take a couple weeks to come up, with the mini ones being the slowest to germinate.

Rainbow chard is up.  These babies are about an inch high.  They grow to over a foot long in no time.  Can hardly wait, I love me some fresh steamed chard! Or raw in salad, or blanched with a little salt and butter.  Hmm, I’m starting to get hungry.  The rainbow selection is a mix of three different plant stem colors, white, red and orange.A surprise was that the carrots are also up.  It usually takes them the longest to sprout, sometimes over two weeks.  These guys are in a hurry, I guess.  Probably the ample moisture from the excessive rain has brought them on quickly.  The carrots are the light green plants.  There are also baby crab grass and one little pig weed among the carrots.  Also, there is what appears to be a white caterpillar wandering by.  Could this be the suspect in the pepper murder???  Not too likely; caterpillars usually eat leaves.Beyond vegetables, I’ve planted some flower seeds to bring a little color to the garden.  There are sunflowers planted along the perimeter.  Also, I dropped in some nasturtiums, marigolds and zinnias.  The flowers encourage bees and butterflies to visit as well as brightening the space.  The flowers have not sprouted yet.

There are feathers in a few of the photos.  These came from the chicken manure I spread on the vegetable patch last fall.  Chicken fertilizer is great for the garden.  It’s got a good nitrogen content and very few weed seeds.  Since I substituted chicken for horse manure in the garden, there has been a noticeable reduction in weeds.  Chicken manure=happy plants and a happy gardener!

 

Ameraucana Chick Hatches

The second clutch of silver and silver x black Ameraucana chicks hatched on 5/16 with the same results as the first hatch:  24 babies.  The ones with the dark chipmunk stripes are pure for the silver color.  The rest have black color genes mixed in.  I’m working toward breeding the black out.  I’m quite pleased with this year’s babies so far.  The hatch rate is good, the chicks are vigorous and there are many pure silvers.  Finian the kitten is very interested in what’s in the brooding box!

The first hatch is now about 3.5 weeks old.  They are enjoying the new-found liberty of an outdoor run.  After days and days of rain, the sun finally came out and the chicks have been going out in the run during the day.  They are busy, curious animals.  But, they still run for the cover of their house if a large creature like a human, horse or dog comes close.  Before long I will allow them to free-range during the day.  They will learn to return to their house every evening, a big lesson for little chickens.

New Chicks

The newest baby chickens have arrived at Phoenix Farm!  They hatched out on 4/21-22, the first for 2019.  There are twenty-four babies, most are silver standard Ameraucana, some are silver crossed with black Ameraucana.  The pure silver ones look like chipmunks with the stripes running down their backs.

The new incubator is doing a great job.  The hatch rate for this first batch was 96%.  Only one egg didn’t open.  The babies are very calm, quiet and curious.  They watch everything with serious, studious expressions on their fluffy faces.  Even being stared at by a four-year-old and two large kittens didn’t fluster these chicks.  They are mellow, taking everything in stride.  I credit the new incubator for the birds’ temperament.  A stress-free beginning in a comfortable environment creates laid back chickens.  The investment in a Brinsea incubator was well worthwhile.

Blue Eggs

Just wanted to share the beautiful eggs my Ameraucana pullets are producing.  They started laying in late December and average four to eight eggs per day.  We have twenty hens.  Only the oldest are laying right now.  More will come online by the end of this month and by the end of March they all should be laying.  That will be just in time to start collecting eggs for setting.

I’m really liking some of the egg color.  My ideal is a robin’s egg blue.  I raise Silver Ameraucana, a variety that has had a lot of trouble with egg color.  The shade is often too pale and too green.  I have my fingers crossed that a good number of the younger pullets will lay nice color.  I’d like to have as many hens as possible for breeding.  So far there are four or five of the oldest pullets producing good blue color.

Personally, I like the variety of shades represented above.  They look lovely as Easter eggs, no dyeing required!  My customers who buy eating eggs really enjoy the brightly colored eggs, as do my young granddaughters.  They are fun for everyone!

August Garden Tour

The garden is in full swing and I’m barely keeping ahead of it, especially the wax beans.  The weather has been in the 90sF and 90%+ humidity for days on end.  It is hard for me to work outside in such hot weather due to breathing difficulties with asthma.  The weeds keep right on growing.  After the thunderstorms finish tonight, we are supposed to have at least three days of temps in the 70s-low 80s and much lower humidity.  I’m so looking forward to that!  Hope to get my garden in shape then.

I’ve just managed to stay ahead of the wax string beans.  So far I’ve canned 6 pints with 6 more to do and another big bag to pick tomorrow.  Beans love hot, humid weather.  The only problem is they can’t be harvested if they are wet.  It causes the beans to get rusty marks on them.  Timing bean harvesting between thunderstorms can be tricky.

I like to place my rows of plantings close enough together so that when they are mature they fill the whole area, choking out weeds.  The plants shade the soil and retain moisture without the need to apply mulch.  Above we see pumpkins on the left, beans in the middle and tomatoes on the right.  There are a few weeds in the tomatoes.  I’ll get rid of those this weekend.

The tomatoes have formed a jungle and are producing more fruit than I can eat.  Soon I will be freezing tomatoes for winter soups.  Fresh, vine-ripened tomatoes right from the garden are so much better than the store-bought variety.  Store tomatoes should be sold under a different name, like cardboard tomatoes.

The indian corn started out slowly this year due to a month of drought in June.  The lack of rain was also hard on the grass.  The hay harvest is poor.  The corn looks better.  Rain, mostly from thunderstorms, has help the plants reach for the sky.  They are about six feet tall and busy tasseling and making ears.  I plant pumpkins as companions for the corn.  The vines run around the stalks where they have plenty of space to spread out.  The large squash leaves shade the ground around the corn, discouraging weeds and helping conserve moisture.  Sunflowers like to grow with the pumpkins as well.

In June I went to a clearance sale at a local greenhouse and saved the last two pots of straight-neck summer squash.  They were very unimpressive, root-bound, yellowed pitiful plants.  I figured, give’em a chance and stuck them in where the carrots failed due to the drought.  In no time they had taken over that spot and are now flexing their leaves over my bed of sweet basil.

From struggling seedlings, the plants have grown into squash making machines.  I pick the squash when it’s very small, about the length of my middle finger, to keep ahead of production.  Small squash are tender and delicious.  Any that get away to grow to monster proportions are fed to the chickens.  They love garden extras, especially squash and tomatoes.

Last year I planted sweet basil near the edge of the garden, right beside the fence.  Something ate all my plants and I never got any basil.  This year I made a bed near the center of the garden.  The basil is growing unmolested and I have harvested a bunch already to dry.  The fresh leaves are also yummy tossed in a salad with tomatoes and summer squash.  The new growth is pinched back by about 6″ or so to encourage branching and prevent the plants from going to flower.  I make bundles using four spears of basil then hang them upside down in a dark, airy room to dry.

This year I again planted the crazy tendril peas.  I didn’t give them any support since they are supposed to hold themselves up with the luxuriant over-growth of tendrils.  It works pretty well.  They do lean over a bit, providing perfect cover for a mouse who is stealing pods and eating my peas before I can pick them.  I guess there’s plenty for everyone.  I’m just worried the rodent will move on to the tomatoes when the peas are gone.  Once I harvest the peas, I’m going to replant carrots in that spot and hope for a fall crop.

By planting sweet peppers in the shade thrown by the corn, the plants get protection from strong sun and the extra moisture they need to perform well.  There will be lots of nice peppers this fall if all goes right.  Last time I got a good pepper harvest, I roasted the excess on the grill, sliced and froze them.  When I needed pepper for topping pizza or tossing in pasta, I just chopped some off the frozen block.  That worked very well, so I plan to do it again this year.

When I was a kid, I did not like chard.  Now I love it!  The drought was tough on chard, but I got several plants that I transplanted to fill out a small row.  They seem to be having a competition to see who can produce the largest leaves.  I particularly like rainbow chard, such a pretty mix of colors when it grows.  

Just for fun and a splash of brightness in the veggie patch, I always grow some flowers.  This year bachelor buttons volunteered from seed dropped last year.  The mass of plants has to be tied up to prevent it flopping into the path and all over the neighboring plants.  These make lovely cut flower bouquets for the table that last over a week.

The zinnias have just started to bloom.  I almost got a picture of a hummingbird on the big red zinnia flower, but I wasn’t quite quick enough.  Hummingbirds also like the sunflowers.  Sometimes when I stand in the garden, the aerial hummingbird battles going on around me make me duck.  The tiny birds are very territorial and don’t like sharing even when there are plenty of flowers to go around.

Female ruby-throated hummingbird on the sunflowers, taken in 2017

This year I planted nasturtiums in the garden for the first time. Some didn’t do well, I suspect the drought got them.  A few have thrived and are producing orange, yellow and red flowers. So pretty. The flowers are supposed to be edible, but I probably will leave them in the garden rather than toss them on a salad.

Now we’ve reached the end of the garden tour.  Time to can some beans!

 

 

Hatching Time and Odd Egg

Here is the first set of Ameraucana eggs for 2018.  They went in the Brinsea Ovation Eco 28 on the 8th and are due to hatch on the 29th.  There are some very nice colored eggs this year.  We’re still waiting for a few of the pullets hatched in September 2017 to start laying, but most of our 15 hens produce regularly.  The main rooster is named RB (Short for Rooster Boy) and he is a very handsome silver Ameraucana.

We have two back-up silver x black roosters and the hens are mostly silver x black.  The hens all have strong silver features.  Fingers are crossed that this next generation will be more of the silver type I’m looking to breed.

Silver Ameraucana hens tend to mature a little slower than other pullets.  They often don’t begin laying until they are seven to nine months old.  Most of mine start around seven months.  The pullets of some breeds commence laying as early as four-and-a-half to six months of age.  What I’ve noticed with early ovulation is the eggs are in the extra small to small range, due to the size of the hens’ bodies.  It takes several weeks for them to have large size eggs.  The silvers may take a little longer to mature, but they start in with a bigger, more usable (salable) egg.  This is a first egg from a seven-month bird that was laid last week.  It is a size large egg.  The deep color is typical for first eggs, although the band of color is somewhat extreme.  It is an odd but beautiful egg.