Garlic, Chickens & Dealing With All The Things

Before the crazy hospital weekend happened, here are some things that were going on around the homestead. And a few things since. The Husband is doing better and is back at work, carefully. He is awaiting more test results then has to go on the waitlist for a colonoscopy. But we are ok. And we are thankful! We’re just slowly picking things up, getting more rest and trying to keep up with at least some of the housework.

Garlic

I found some good advice about growing garlic and preventing rust in this blog post by KoruKai Farm: Growing Organic Garlic Part 1 and this post by Edible Backyard: How to Deal With Garlic Rust. Rust is the reason I stopped growing garlic. It’s a fungal disease that stunts the garlic bulbs and nobody wants puny bulbs. Now I’m trying again with some new strategies. I got all my garlic varieties from Te Mata Garlic. I haven’t tried them before so I can’t yet comment on their effectiveness, but I was impressed with the quality and size of the bulbs considering I chose the smallest grades.

Somehow, a trench got dug in the section of the Front Plot in which the early garlic was to be planted. The Little Fulla helped me to partially fill it with kitchen scraps and young compost. Ideally it should be filled with fresh scraps so there will be food for the garlic months down the track when other nutrients have been used up, to keep it going in the face of rust pressure. It’s the ‘later’ nutrients. But the kitchen scraps are currently going into a compost bin in the pen that the chickens are in and their pecking and scratching makes things decompose faster! Mind you, it’s ideal to get this done a couple of weeks before planting anyway. Ours got a couple of days.

The organic matter and trench were then covered with soil. Then a small layer of done compost was spread on top and was watered. That is the garlic’s ‘now’ nutrients. Then I mulched everything with the pea straw left from the potatoes.

It is best if you spread garlic crops around the garden so there’s less risk of them infecting each other with rust. I read that a bit late in the game but will leave at least some space between the varieties. I planted the cloves of the two early varieties, Te Mata Pearl and Te Mata Rose, in the prepared row, 25cm apart, with maybe a metre between the two crops. The bulbs don’t need that much space to grow but wider spacing helps prevent rust. There were 20 cloves of each variety. And I couldn’t help but plant the cloves in size order from biggest to smallest. We’ve had a good rain event since they were planted and are getting more now, so that should set them off to a good start. Now I have to decide what to plant between the two varieties: something that would like a lot of food but isn’t in the onion family so it doesn’t transfer rust…

I can’t help putting the garlic cloves in size order.

I have just found green shoots popping up from the garlic bed. Excellent.

I have three more later varieties of garlic to plant this month – April. I was planning to prepare their beds in the same way to make more of a fair trial but with everything going on I don’t think they’ll get scraps trenches. They’ll at least get some compost. And one variety will get fed by a dead chicken buried in the middle of it…

Other Garden Things

I’ve gotten some things done in the last week, clawing my way back once again. I got the first swathe of Autumn salad greens sowed in the main Veggie Garden. I mixed together seeds of a mesculun mix, green and red lettuces, spinach, and red pak choy. I haven’t mixed so many salad greens together before so it will be interesting to see how it works. Some of the seeds were getting old so it was a good idea to mix them with something else anyway. I just sowed the seeds of victory all over top of half the bed along the chicken pen fence, planning to use the plants mostly as baby greens. I will sow the rest of the bed in a couple of weeks.

Last week, just as the rainy patch was starting, I cleared one of the other raised beds in which I sowed some beetroot, onions around the edge and carrots. I usually sow onions in trays but am choosing low maintenance methods as much as I can right now. I hope things will grow now that the soil has had good rain.

There are seeds in there.

There is more tidying up to do of old crops and weeds. The tomato plants are all done for with disease so need to come out after the last of the green tomatoes have been picked to ripen inside.

We picked all the semi-dried corn that was left on the plants and dried the cobs in the dehydrator. I will see if the variety works as popcorn or for grinding into cornmeal. The Little Fulla took great delight in pulling the dried kernels off the cobs, no matter how many there were. He just wanted to be helpful. I also dried cayenne chillies in the dehydrator to grind for our cayenne pepper.

There’s corn everywhere.

I have picked some more herbs for drying in the house before they start to die back: sage and thyme.

The pears are almost done but we still have tasty apples on our mature tree down the back. It is fruiting a lot better since I pruned it hard to get it back from leaning over the fence a couple of seasons ago. We have an abundance of feijoas but many of them are too small to be useful. We know why. Because I still haven’t pruned the giant tree yet. Just wait until I’m not pregnant anymore! I will find a way to reach and cut its high branches, one way or another. The walnuts have started falling so it’s time to think about how I’m going to get them gathered this time around. It will probably involve a small child. And some brib… I mean positive reinforcement.

Chickens

A couple of weeks ago I butchered the final chicken, the youngest black Morpheus cockerel. He wasn’t any better than the older boy, nor his blue half-brother. That leaves us with the oldest black Morpheus cockerel and the blue Jemima cockerel for now. The blue boy is a pleasant young chap who looks good too. It’s funny that these two boys get along quite well and will often hang out with each other. The blue boy doesn’t crow at the moment. The black one I culled was different; often crowing and steering clear of the older boss because he was a stirrer. I somehow butchered a total of 58 chickens from October to March. It will be nice to have a break.

These two cockerels have an oddly good relationship at present. I’m certainly not complaining.
Why is he so cute? The blue boy just stands there looking at me, very chilled-out.

I sold a few pullets and had one that became unwell. One of the two blue Jemima pullets I had left had a growth on her face. I’m not sure if it was caused by fowl pox or something else, but I was treating it. Unfortunately, she was one of those chickens that just didn’t seem to have a fighting spirit and she would hardly eat or drink anything by herself. I might have been able to bring her around with multiple daily treatments and syringe drinking but I had to make a decision. She was the best-looking of Jemima’s girls, which was the hard part. I wanted her to get better but, especially considering our current circumstances, I had to ask myself the hard questions: 1) Do I want to keep a chicken that needs intensive intervention to get better? 2) Do I want to breed from that chicken? The answer to both of these questions was “No”. Looks aren’t everything. I want to breed healthy chickens. And so I reluctantly put her out of her misery. At least I still have one blue Jemima girl left and she is laying well. We are now down to 17 chickens. I am choosing names for the young ones at present and trying to take decent photos of each one.

Jemima’s blue daughter has just laid an egg and the gentlemanly cockerel escorts her back to the flock.

Many of the hens are moulting and either not laying or laying less, but some of the pullets are laying so we have plenty of eggs.

Inside

I have been chipping away at sorting out the baby’s room, which was nothing short of a giant mess. While it was called the Craft Room, it was really the Craft/Storage/Incubation/Seed-starting/Project-materials/Catch-all Room. It had gathered everything including the bathroom sink in it.

I sorted through the mountain of baby clothes I was given by The Little Sister. I still have no idea how she came to have quite so many, but it was amazing to get some to add to what we already had from The Little Fulla. We won’t have to buy any baby clothes! And there were still five bags stuffed full of baby clothes to donate to people who need them.

Then began the process of consolidating the new and old baby clothes and washing them and all the other baby linens. I started washing them just before the hospital incident and The Husband asked, “Why are you washing them all now?” I replied that I didn’t want to leave it until the last minute because you never know what could happen. Too right. I would also rather get them done before the weather gets colder and wetter.

I took some unwanted items to the Habitat Re-store and have just a few more to sell or donate. I moved the incubator table into the laundry to see if it will work there for now. Space is getting tight in this house. The bathroom sink and toilet waiting to be installed have been pushed against the wall of the baby’s room for now.

Some of my friends threw me a Baby Sprinkle this week, which was a collection of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. It came at the perfect timing, after our rough weekend, and made me feel so special and encouraged. The room was decorated with candles and fairy lights and my friend had made two gluten-free, dairy-free raw cakes: banoffee pie and a raspberry chocolate cheesecake. They were scrumptious. The cakes and friends alone would have been enough.

I had been asked beforehand to write a list of character traits that I hope my child will have. These were shared out with everyone inside little plastic eggs and we prayed for these qualities and for us in general. My friends wrote pieces of advice or encouragement on notes inside little envelopes. They wrote funny or encouraging things on the backs of nappies, that is, the nappies that didn’t fit on the giant nappy cake! They had also each chosen a scripture for me or the baby and these were all laminated and put on a keyring with a tiny torch so I can read them while I’m feeding the baby at night. And they gave me baby wipes, soaps, a sleepsack AND a voucher for a 1 hour pregnancy or post-pregnancy massage. Honestly, I’m so stumped I don’t even have the words to express my thankfulness. So, just, thank you, my amazing friends. Excuse my poor photos of what was left of the cakes; these are some leftovers I brought home.

Then the next morning The Mother took out The Little Sister, who is also pregnant, and I for a lovely brunch. In the midst of stressful life happenings, I am feeling the blessings.

It was a strange Easter for sure. On Sunday afternoon I mustered enough energy to make a few Easter treats with The Little Fulla out of melted dark chocolate: some little Easter eggs, crosses and blobs. We didn’t actually get to the point of joining the Easter egg halves together, but they tasted good all the same. The Husband and The Little Fulla have been enjoying hot cross buns made by The Mother and I finally got to make my gluten-free, yeast-free hot cross buns on Tuesday. They are very tasty. Even if they didn’t get as far as getting crosses… Here is the recipe I use: Gluten & Yeast-Free Hot Cross Buns.

I still have the food nesting drive and will share some of what else I’ve done soon. Have a great weekend everyone. Be a blessing to those around you.


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