Much has been going on at Twiglet Homestead. There has been plenty to write about but not much chance to do so. We’ve had the good (things that have gone well), the bad (things that have not gone well but have gotten better) and the ugly (things that have spiraled downward towards a black hole).
The chicks are all doing well. They are just over two weeks old and are healthy, active and pretty. They are getting used to having me around, especially since I am the bearer of food, and mumma Frodo has been very good about us grabbing and holding them. My early thoughts are that we have seven girls and seven boys, but we shall delve more into that little game later. The chicks are now sleeping in the main coop and running around all over the place like busy little chickens. Their cuteness is a good distraction from the general nuttiness of life.
I finally finished the green never-ending jersey! You’d think I would have learnt some lessons from the last never-ending jersey that I knitted for The Little Fulla. But apparently I didn’t. Lessons that could have been helpful are:
- Start at least six months before the jersey will be needed.
- Don’t pick an annoying pattern.
- Knit one for NEXT WINTER instead of THIS WINTER.
Any such lessons flew right over my head as I told myself I could finish knitting a jersey for The Little Fulla in a couple of months. Nope. Nope. Nope! Maybe if I’d made myself sit down every night to do at least a little work on it. But there have been so many other things to do: gardening, making stuff with wood, housework, food prep, social activities. And when I do sit down at night I usually end up checking emails, researching things on the internet, working on the blog, buying nappies online, etc, etc. and the hands just don’t stop often enough for knitting.
Thus, ’twas exactly six months after its commencement that I finally finished the green jersey. It was the project that went on and on, cast into shadow by the fruitful projects of my fellow knitters, who probably got tired of asking, “How’s the jersey going?” The Mother-in-law probably knitted about 100 projects during the time it took me to knit this jersey, including a cute vest for The Little Fulla that will certainly fit him next year. Nevertheless, this snail-paced journey had a good end. I am really pleased with how the jersey turned out. We will just not look too closely at the decreases towards the shoulder, which are, thankfully, mostly covered by the overlap and the buttons. The pattern said silly things. And I probably interpreted them in silly ways. I did add extra length and sleeve length so hopefully the jersey will still fit The Little Fulla next winter. In any case, he is going to wear it forever, and ever, and ever. Amen.
The weather seems to have finally calmed down and is actually giving us some hot days. Imagine having to water the garden! This means that the crops are growing well. One day, The Husband came home from the supermarket with some ingredients for making wraps for dinner. One of these items was a bag of baby spinach. I just about died. We have lettuce and rocket in the VEGE GARDEN! I was worn out from all the work I’d been putting into the Vege Garden through sickness and injury and it all seemed to have gone over The Husband’s head. I told him he needed to 1) look at the produce board on the pantry to see what food crops we had available and 2) spend some time in the Vege Garden to see what was actually growing in there. He did. And he also helped to turn some of the compost heap and shoveled out the last of the compost from the chicken’s Orchard Pen compost bin into the new vege bed.
The new vege bed may have taken as long to fill as three trips to the moon and back, but we got there. The kumara end was filled with a mixture of compost and sandy soil from the chicken pen. I mixed in a little ash from the fire too. Once it was filled I made a mound down the middle and then… I got to plant stuff! The rest of the kumara shoots were planted in two rows, either side of the mound.
Then the potato end had to be filled. The Little Fulla and I went on a ‘country shopping trip’ one day. We got chicken food, we got horse poop, we got berries from a berry farm. It was a very successful outing! I had also bought five bags of compost the day before. Aside from my limited shoveling abilities, I knew we wouldn’t have enough compost to fill the new vege bed and finish topping up the other beds, so this helped out a tiny bit. The potato end got some poop tipped into it, because the ‘taters can handle it, a bit of sandy soil and lots of compost.
Getting the remaining seed potatoes planted was a big relief. It might be the slowest-maturing potato crop ever but let’s hope it pans out well. I fitted 14 Summer Delight potatoes in there, which have a long time-until-harvest of 150 days. That means they ought to be ready by mid-April. This will be ok as long as we don’t have a really soggy March and April. Surely, we can’t have two super-rainy years in a row…
In a chicken-garden joint venture, there is now a two-bay compost bin in the chickens’ Cedar Pen. Hooray! It even has stuff in it already. I used the old wooden compost surround that was here when we moved in (and way too small for my compost needs) and had recently been utilised for a compost bin in the Orchard Pen. I sawed off the posts down to the level of the sides and whacked one back plank off to make everything even and keep the sides low for the chickens. Then I used a wooden piece that was lying around, which was a table top made out of pallets by The Husband that recently lost its legs, to divide the bin into two bays. I’ve attached one plank across the front of each bay and may add more if I need to. At some point I will probably add a third bay on the left-hand side. I will be making another compost bin for the Orchard Pen and have moved one of the endlessly-useful long pallet frames in there as a starting point for the back of the compost bin.
The old compost area by the Vege Garden is slowly getting removed. The finished compost is being used for filling up vege beds and the in-progress stuff is being wheelbarrowed to the new compost bin in the chicken pen. Clearing the corner has allowed me to plant one of the Atlantic Giant pumpkins there beside the Kumara barrels.
I decided that the giant pumpkin plant in the future patio area beside the deck could share its bed with some edibles. I was only going to plant one gherkin cucumber until I read something along the lines of, “Don’t make that mistake”, so I will plant the three that I’ve grown so we can have more little cucumbers ready at the same time for pickling. They will go in the Patio Bed and, since I have tomato plants coming out of my ears, I’ve planted two Black Krims and one Golden Roma in there.
The strawberries are enjoying their new home and I have been chopping and freezing them to have in our morning porridge along with other kinds of bought berries.
After I emptied the old black rain barrel by the back carport through watering the garden, The Husband removed the downpipe and barrel. Hooray! This is a win for child-proofing and clearing space for further formulation of the Great Vege Garden Expansion Plan. And prep for removal of the carport. The rain barrel was set further into the ground than we thought and is quite tall, 1.12m tall to be precise. I was going to use it as a planter barrel, but since it is so tall I’m thinking we could cut it so a big portion with the bottom could be a planter and the top section could be turned into a chicken dust bath.
We have had an annoying share of sicknesses and such of late. First, there was my back injury, then the tonsillitis for The Little Fulla and I, then The Husband got a short but intense bout of what we thought was food poisoning. An extended family member also fell into dire health before having a miraculous recovery. Last night I got a similar spew thing to what The Husband had. All these things suck time and energy but we just carry on and try to lower our expectations of getting stuff done. This, too, shall pass. I need to strictly enforce a reasonable bedtime on myself, as none of the good things I’m doing matter if I’m not getting enough sleep to keep my body functioning well.
With the extremely wet weather, it was inevitable that the garlic was going to get rust. Of course, this happened while I was injured. When I got to it, I cut off the affected leaves, binned them and sprayed my garlic and onions with a copper fungicide. This will not get rid of the fungus but may help prevent further infection. Although it used to be the go-to organic fungicide, copper is starting to fall out of favour since it persists in the soil. I would like to experiment with colloidal silver as an alternative. Garlic might be on the chopping block for next season’s plan.
I still haven’t planted all my tomatoes, capsicums and pumpkins yet. Most of my precious garden time has been spent on all the above things. I’m also waiting for the rest of the brassicas to mature so they can get out of the way! Whilst planting the latest potatoes The Little Fulla stood on my only Winter Luxury Pie pumpkin, causing a breakage in its stem. I had planted it in the corner of the future Raspberry Bed, beside the new vegetable bed and had neglected to give it any protection. This is a reminder that I need to protect ground-level plants from wandering feet. I hope the plant can repair its wound and carry on, but I’m not so sure.
There are weeds all over the place that need to be dealt with, it’s just a matter of slowly picking away at them.
One day we had an eight-hour powercut due to an accident down the road. I missed out on my morning shower and I discovered that I hadn’t changed our bottled emergency water for eight months and it had floaties in it, so we didn’t use that for ingestible purposes. This highlights the need for more effective preparedness around here. An emergency kit and water supply isn’t much use if you don’t remind yourself to check them! Nevertheless, The Little Fulla and I survived without power and running water (the water pump uses power) without leaving home the whole time, which is quite commendable.
The chickens. As I mentioned earlier, the little chicks are all good, as is Frodo. The ugliness does not pertain to illness but to the re-opening of The Case of The Egg Thief, with disastrous consequences. I was wrong in declaring rats the secondary egg thieves. It was more chickens. The fur child has caught two rats recently. I found a very large dead rat by the compost heap and I wonder if that was what chewed the bait station entry holes. Its death had no effect on the egg thievery, however, and I definitely would have heard/seen that thing if it was boldly thieving in broad daylight.
I will never know exactly what was going on and who was doing what, but one of the chickens was evidently traveling eggs around the pens, which didn’t help. The egg traveling was made clear when I moved them into the other pen. And my failure to fully deal with the problem led to more chickens being compromised with this bad behaviour and hardly any eggs because so many were disappearing. I had no idea it could get so bad. I have been caging, then dispatching the culprits.
It is almost as bad as it could be. Worse than I imagined. It is VERY grim. Sookie and Jane are gone. Kitty and Georgiana were in cages but have been moved to the Naughty Corner I set up with the small/broody coop now that the chicks have moved out. I have penned them in that area as a last ditch chance to stick around for a bit longer, where they can be kept away from my last remaining hopes: Lorelai and Frodo. I don’t think Kitty and Georgiana will ever be able to rejoin the flock, but maybe I can 1) find out if the egg-eating has anything to do with not getting enough calcium by providing them with heaps of oyster grit and 2) see if I can get any eggs at all from them to help with the Great Egg Drought, which is now upon us and will be for the next five months until some of the young girls start laying. The Husband said I couldn’t buy any more hens at the moment. We will be buying a lot of eggs.
I am so, so glad that I hatched the chicks, and so many of them too. Without them, things would be even more grim.
As for Mr Bingley, he is currently caged because he had gotten increasingly uneasy and crowy with the movements and losses of ‘his’ hens, making me nervous with The Little Fulla around, and also because he is too full-on to leave with just Lorelai open for business. He rushed Frodo one morning, scattering the chicks everywhere because he is getting desperate for control and ‘work’. He didn’t want to eat from my hand anymore. I also can’t confirm how involved he is in the egg-eating scandal. I am going to try putting him in the Naughty Corner with Kitty and Georgiana for a little bit, but I’m guessing he’ll be over the fence even though we’ve clipped his wings. The reality is, Mr Bingley is going to have to go. Like, actually this time. There are too many iffy things going on with him that I don’t want passed on to any future little roos or hens and in any case, I don’t have enough hens to keep him busy. Weirdly, The Husband seems to be more disappointed in the fate of Mr Bingley than that of any of the hens. I didn’t know he had a fondness for Mr Bingley. Maybe he can bond with one of the little cockerels. Here’s hoping for an end to this disaster.