Well, That Escalated Quickly, And I’m Not Talking About a Virus

Chickens

I was rejoicing that Morpheus had gone broody. The very next morning I found that there were two broody hens in nestboxes. The second one was Penny Black, who had taken up residence downstairs. She goes broody quite frequently but hasn’t been tested with eggs yet.

And now there are two broodies. Penny Black has succumbed.

That night I found three broody hens in nestboxes. That escalated quickly. The third was young Trillium, first time broody and untested with eggs.

And now there are three broodies: Morpheus, Trillium and Penny Black.

But wait, there’s more! The next night I opened the door to find all four nestboxes with a black broody hen sitting in them. Ok, this is getting nuts! The fourth was Magnolia, another of the pullets going broody for the first time. There’s definitely something contagious going on. Do we need to do some projections of the spread? Poor Jack of Spades only had two hens left who hadn’t caught the broodiness.

I had to decide what to do with all these broodies. I certainly don’t need them all to hatch or raise chicks, nor do we have the housing for that. We can’t have all the nestboxes taken over by screeching beasts and I’m sure Jack of Spades is concerned about the situation. Also, one of the remaining two hens was Helen Cluck, who’s known to go broody.

Since there are broody mumma options and since I’d like to get more chicks out of rooster Sage before he goes, I put another 20 eggs into the incubator: Batch #2. They will be given to a broody hen or two (or four) when the Batch #1 eggs go into lockdown.

While I figured out who to leave broody I was ousting the young broodies each day. After a few days of being pushed out the door Magnolia snapped herself out of broodiness, which hardly ever happens with our Australorps. This was very helpful.

Two nights later The Husband said there were four broodies, two of them sharing one nestbox. Since I was stuck in the long evening feeding I had to wait until morning to find out if Magnolia had relapsed or if it was Helen Cluck. The upstairs location of the nestbox sharing gave me a clue and my suspicions were confirmed: Helen Cluck had succumbed to broodiness. That left Dahlia as the only black girl who hadn’t gone broody, although at least she got Magnolia back. I suspect this was some sort of organised final salute to Frodo. Trillium is now in the broody breaker cage.

Dahlia must be wondering what on earth is going on. Where is everybody?

Garden

A bit more has gotten done in the garden since lockdown started and The Husband is home. It’s still about the small wins though. We’ve been blessed with calmer, drier weather for much-needed outdoor time. I got all the tomato seeds sown. We’re growing 13 varieties this year; more than I originally planned but a result of being sent a number of yellow or orange varieties of superior nutrition from Heritage Food Crops Research Trust. I had to do a lot of fiddling with my Veggie Plan spreadsheet. Some varieties we’ll only have two plants of. Here are the tomatoes we’re growing:

  • Amish Paste
  • Brandywine Pink
  • Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
  • Gardener’s Delight
  • Golden Bell (new)
  • Golden Grape (new)
  • Golden Light (new)
  • King’s Gold
  • Mini Orange (new)
  • Moonglow (new)
  • Olga’s Round Golden Chicken Egg (new)
  • Oxheart Dalmatian
  • Tangella (new)

I tried to start enough seeds so that we get what we need but don’t have too many spares since my growing windowsill is now the baby’s room windowsill. The greenhouse, along with many, many things, did not get done once I got pregnant. At the moment, the seed trays of tomato seeds are in the hot water cupboard to germinate where it’s warmer, along with some parsley and celery.

The Husband, no doubt motivated by his love of tomatoes and tomato soup, decided to do something about the lack of seed-growing space. He pulled an old window out of the Potting Shed that I was planning to make a cold frame out of, one day. Using pieces of timber to make it higher, he made a flat cold frame that is sitting on our outdoor table on the deck. It’s not like we’re allowed visitors for a while anyway. The window is just sitting on top of the timber base so it isn’t impossible to move, but there is an angled screw on three sides to stop it moving around. I like the handy handle. We shall see if it will keep seeds and seedlings warm enough until the nights get warmer. The pepper seedlings will stay inside for now as they need the most warmth.

The seed-starting cold frame that The Husband whipped up.

The Front Plot isn’t quite as abundant-looking as I was planning it to be. The first row is doing well, with garlic and kale. The second row has a small amount of garlic up the back and the rest was sown in an autumn cover crop. It was. I did it myself. But I think the birds must have eaten most of the seeds as very few plants actually grew. There’s nothing wrong with the seeds as the cover crop I sowed in one of the raised beds grew splendidly.

The third and fourth rows have brassicas in them: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and tatsoi. But the slugs and snails got to a lot of them while I wasn’t watching. The remaining ones were slow to get going since I got them sowed late, but with some warmer weather and longer days they’re speeding up now. The Little Fulla got some of my early broccoli seedlings in his veggie garden and has been munching on broccoli “snacks”.

The Front Plot: not the swathe of green and purple that I wanted it to be, but at least there are things growing in it.

I got the lush cover crop in the main Veggie Garden cut and dug up and will work it into the soil soon. The Little Fulla decided to help by pulling out some of the masses of weeds around the veggie beds. He did a great job and I hauled them off to the chickens. I was feeling so proud of him. Then he told me I owed him $2 because he’d done two lots of weeding, one the day before.

The lush cover crop at the end of the Long Bed, before it was chopped and uprooted.

Rhubarb wasn’t on my to-do list but I was admiring all the deep red stems and realised I better use them before I lose them. I stewed the chopped stems with some glucose then froze it in silicone muffin trays before bagging the portions. Regular muffin portions can be for snacks or desserts and a mini muffin portion is just the right size for adding to rice porridge with a few blueberries for breakfast.

Gotta harvest these beautiful red stems while they’re here.
Stewed rhubarb portions.

The mandarins on our Burgess Scarlet tree have started ripening. I just realised it has a pretty appropriate name too. Along with the tangerines, they’re giving us some fruit during lockdown, which is helpful. I think this is the tree’s second year of being allowed to fruit. They say that the best time to plant a fruit tree was yesterday; the second-best time is today.

Mandarin ‘Burgess Scarlet’ – glad I planted it.

Our neighbours down the back have been working hard to tidy and fence off part of their pasture for an orchard. They’ve planted a bunch of fruit trees along wires attached to huge end posts to keep them trained low. I’ve been enjoying watching their progress, living vicariously through them while I can’t tackle any projects yet. It’s satisfying watching other people do things that I’m passionate about.

I decided it was time to release The Husband and the chainsaw on the huge feijoa tree. I marked some branches with chalk that I wanted him to cut, including one major structural one close to the fence. This was just phase one: taking some of the branches off the sides. Miss Scarlet was feeding when the boys went off to chainsaw and I was itching to watch. It was all done by the time I got to the door but I wasn’t too late for a neighbourly chat. Although I rather like being ‘stuck’ at home it is nice to be able to talk to neighbours over the fence.

This phase allowed me to see what was what better, as there was such a great mass of branches. The neighbour helpfully offered to chuck the branches in his burn pile so we just kept the biggest two to cut up for firewood. We ran out of chain oil so are waiting until some arrives in the post before any more chainsawing can occur. Fortunately, chain and bar oil is an essential product that can be shipped. When it arrives I will be out there with my chalk again. The feijoa tree doesn’t know what’s coming…

The giant feijoa tree is finally getting a good haircut. We have only just begun.

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