April 27, 2005

This weekend added up to TurkeyGate. Two of last year’s hens were sitting on eggs, we knew that. They were set up in a dog-loo on straw, very nice and cozy, and had happily brooded for weeks. They were erratic at starting to set on the eggs, so we didn’t have a starting date but knew it was probably close. Unrelated, on Saturday morning after weeks of wishywashing, I thought "dammit, I AM ordering those Narragansett eggs". $50 for a dozen eggs, Narragansetts are another beautiful black and white breed, the predecessor to the bronze and critically rare. Described as even tempered stay-at-homes with toms reaching 30 pounds, they sounded wonderful, and I wanted some. I ordered away. Not 3 hours later I went outside to find dingbat hens with panicking little day-old chicks running in the yard-not good. I got them re-settled (I thought) and made efforts to not disturb them. This was the big mistake–later in the day I found a dead chick, an near dead chick, and panicky chicks. That did it, make a quick brooder out of a box and a heat lamp, get the leating pad out, get the poor thing warm. They pulled through and got toasty. There is something too sad about seeing a shivering little bird peeping its head off. It strikes right at whatever molecules of parental instinct anyone has….stress, stress, stress. By night they were doing better, except they were trying to pack at each other’s eyes! Ick! Stop that! Ack! Read read read, try a red light. Where the hell is the red floodlamp? Wander around the shop, finally find it, hook it up. Better but still pecking. Attempt to watch movie while guiltily checking on chicks every hour.
The following morning, I went outside. Two more hatched, one was almost dead trampled in the dirt. Get chicks inside, warm them up, go outside with basket, remove eggs from rotten mothers and take eggs into incubator. One poor egg had started to hatch but no movement now…wait and see. In a moment of despair the light bulb went off–would another turkey hen adopt chicks that weren’t her own? One way to find out. Beautiful was injured over the winter, and has lived in a seperate pen ever since. She walks with a limp that is likely permanent, but has otherwise stabilized. She had been acting broody. I popped the chicks underneath her and she took them. She seemed to want them and was being mother hen again. Thank the stars for this, because they do so much better when raised by a hen. Except that, beautiful was going to sit on my Narragansett eggs. I’m gonna cross that bridge when the eggs come.
Sweet peas are everywhere this week, scarlet and wine and pink and white and purples and violets and lilacs and a couple other shades too, every one of them a perfume factory. It is wonderful beyone my imaginings, and it’s exciting. I can have area after area like this on the property. I learned that if the seeds are thrown down in September/October that the plants will grow just right, and come roaring into spring with well developed root systems. Who writes that crap on the seed packets, anyway? Half of my garden learning has added up to realizing that most of the instructions are just plain wrong, at least for USDA Zone 9 growing.
All the wildflowers are up now, too. Poppies everywhere, flax, yarrow, and the pink stuff I still can’t figure out the name of. I can spread that every year, too. I bought a quarter pound of valley wildflower seed, that’s a fall project. Seeds are great. Once you have them, who needs to buy more?
The replacement dahlias came, 24 of them. Rototilled a ditch, chicken wire over that, a little more dirt, then the tubers, more dirt and straw. This time, they are planted in March and not May…if they all come up, it will be a spectacular display.
Some eggplants and peppers in, with diatomacoeus earth on top for slugs and earwigs. That worked so-so. As soon as I say damage I upgraded to beer bait and sevin dust. Sevin is the only garden pesticide I’ll use, and only when the plants are tender seedlings. It’s the only chance they have against a ravenous earwig population, and when you spend weeks raising heirloom seedlings, it’s hard to just lose them all to bugs. Lotsa slugs drowning away in that Bud Light (which is all I think that brand is good for anyway…)
The roses in the circle garden are making the first appearance. These are on their own rootstock, a new adventure for me. I fertilized and inspected them. There was some amount of random, inexplicable die-back on some shoots. I pruned all that out, removed any straggler weeds, and added the fertilizer. The blossoms are small right now but every bit as fragranced as the glossy promo material claimed–whoa. I only can’t help notice that in the middle of all these lilac roses, one looks kinda orange. Wonder if someone messed up the plant tag on that one….to be announced.
I cancelled the strawberry order for the year. There was a crop problem due to heavy rains in the middle states, and the ship date was set for mid-June to early July. Stupid, since as the customer representative said "you guys are picking strawberries in February out there." Yeah, that sums it up. It’s better this way, I already have too much to do and I can use the time to do proper soil preparation (for a change).
Straw, straw, straw, I am on about my 20th bale of wheat straw. Straw everywhere=no weeds. Can’t have too much, really. The last round-up (I hope) for the front acreage was sprayed over the weekend, and next comes gobs of straw to smother out any up and coming hopeful weeds. This should give is a realtively weed-free garden, which in summer is the difference between success and failure.
I read an article about some farmers near Sacramento, they plant 10 tomato varieties at 1,000 tomatoes per variety. I wonder if I will ever get there, it’s hard to imagine that magnitude. Do I even want to get there?! It’s all such a learning process. But from where I stand, I cal already see that farming is like building a house. You don’t worry about the color of the roof tiles when you’re still framing out the walls…you get there when you get there.

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