Hello Food, Hello Spring, Hello Chicks

Towards the end of Level 4 lockdown we turned our attention to food things. This was a good idea since The Husband had to go back to work at Level 3. After that the days became a blur of looking after two kids and making sure we were all fed and clothed. The Little Fulla had some online learning to navigate and was full of loud, never-ending chatter. Miss Scarlet’s refusal to sleep in bed during the day, despite my dedicated campaign, means I have her in the carrier for every sleep, except on the weekend when The Husband is here to give much-needed assistance. It’s been very tiring.

The Little Fulla has been helping out with things though and comes out with the sweetest things sometimes. When I’m feeding Miss Scarlet he often asks if there’s anything I need that he can get for me. With stickers he got for his birthday he made this sticker chart for us. He said it was for doing good things like making good food and looking after the baby. He pointed out the big square that was worth two stickers. I asked him what that was for. He replied, “Changing nappies and getting Scarlet to sleep.” Sometimes his understanding goes beyond his years.

A sticker chart for good parenting.

Back to the days of more productivity. There were a few food items that needed to be made because we were running low on them. The Husband made another batch of tomato soup/sauce to freeze. We still have heaps of tomatoes in the freezer and The Husband even shockingly suggested that we may have had too many plants. And to think, he wanted 100 plants! We still have a while to go before we’ll be harvesting fresh tomatoes though, so we’ll see. I made a batch of chicken stock then a batch of Thai pumpkin soup – more things for the freezer. The silicone trays have been getting used extensively.

I have been just keeping up with batches of rice porridge, which I freeze in the silicone trays and eat reheated every morning with blueberries, rhubarb or other fruit. The Little Fulla eats it some mornings if he doesn’t feel like a sandwich, and every morning when I have mixed berries in the freezer to add to it… I’ve also kept up with cooking hard-boiled eggs to store in the fridge, handy for meals or snacks.

The Husband made a batch of mince with beans, lentils and corn and put dinner-sized portions into bags to freeze. That is very handy. I made some chocolate muffins for The Little Fulla’s birthday party. Even though it got postponed due to lockdown, I thought I better make something I could freeze while The Husband was around. I’m so glad I did.

Garden & Blessings

Spring sprung in lockdown and it is certainly springing along. The sunny daffodils are out in the Herb Garden – the ones I keep forgetting to dig out when they’re dormant and transplant somewhere better. The white swathe of plum tree blossom is giving way to new leaves and the other fruit trees are following suit. The weather is nutty and stormy, typical of early spring.

I’m thankful that I got seed starting mix back when I was heavily pregnant. And the seed potatoes! I saw online that seed raising mix and the like were flying off the shelves once we got to Level 3. The seed companies have been swamped with orders. It must be a tricky time for garden retailers and nurseries. I was happy to be able to post some of my seeds to The Big Sister in Auckland, as they have to stay in Level 4 for now. I like helping other people to grow food. It’s important and it’s good for the soul too.

I’m actually blown away by the amount of errands I got done and things I bought that were needed in the weeks ahead before lockdown was even a thought, even though it was hard to get things done, sometimes with a highly distraught baby in the car. One of Miss Scarlet’s mottos is: In car, must poop. I got what we needed for The Little Fulla’s birthday, aside from food from the supermarket.

As lockdown arrived I felt peace about where we were at and what we had, despite the fact that I was just assembling the grocery list. We avoided the supermarket for a few days. For me, it all comes down to asking God every day to help me do the important things and operate in his wisdom. I stumble sometimes, especially at the moment, and sometimes things happen beyond our influence, but I see the way God provides for us when I’m faithful to walking with him, even when I’m worn out and feeling crappy. We were also blessed with some computer monitors from a company that The Husband did some work for, as they were replacing all theirs. Now I have a monitor that is pretty much twice as big as my old one and doesn’t have weird spasmodic flickering problems. Woohoo! Also, I can see so many things on my spreadsheets without having to scroll along thanks to the long screen. Fellow spreadsheet nerds will appreciate this.

The neighbours on one side of us have cut down their olive trees, unexpectedly leaving us with a beautiful view of the hills beyond and much more sun streaming into all the rooms on that side of the house in the morning. It is also letting more sun onto the veggies in the Front Plot and the dwarf pear tree along the fence. I am touched by this happening, as a view of hills or mountains is one of the things on my checklist for our next property. It’s important to me and this was like a special reminder to me from God that he knows. And he’s still working behind the scenes.

The new view of the hills and sunrise from The Little Fulla’s room.
Enjoying the hills and sunrise from the kitchen. Yes, the windows do need cleaning.

The biggest of the pepper seedlings have been potted up and are doing well in the coldframe on the outdoor table so far. Some of the tomatoes didn’t germinate well so I resowed some. It will definitely be survival of the fittest this season. I sowed some more carrot seeds in the garden, before it gets too hot and dry. Otherwise, there’s still masses of weeding that needs to get done and more seeds to sow this week.

The feijoa tree got its second phase haircut from The Husband after I marked more branches with cut lines. We can see where it was cut back to some years ago. The new growth from that evidently wasn’t pruned as the many branches were so long and wild. The more we cut out the easier it was to see what was going on amidst the madness.

We are cutting the feijoa tree back hard. I decided to do about half the tree now and the rest next year. It’s going to look weird for a little while but it means that we’ll still get fruit this coming season and the new growth shouldn’t be as intense as if we cut the whole thing back hard at once. Also, it means there’s still some shelter for the chickens. They’re not impressed about what we’ve done. I’m sure they’re planning a revolt.

I chose to cut the side adjacent to the tangerine tree first because the looming feijoa tree was pushing up against it and shading it. The tangerine tree also needs to be pruned down a bit lower and now I have a clear view of it. If you can’t reach some of the fruit on a tree that needs its fruit picked off, what’s the point? Unless it’s providing shelter or privacy it’s better to keep it to a manageable size. That also means the plant is putting its energy into less fruit, so they will be of better quality. That is essentially why the feijoa tree needed a major prune, other than squishing the tangerine tree; it was producing masses of fruit but they had gotten much smaller and of lesser quality than they used to be.

Chickens

For now I have to get any big tasks done on the weekends, when I have backup. Last weekend’s big task for me was getting blue rooster Sage butchered. This weekend it was The Little Fulla’s party since we’re in Level 2 now, plus, by the grace of God, getting Featherburn Lodge cleaned too. Sage and Jack of Spades are both fathers now, so I decided we had had enough of Sage’s services and the roosters harping on at each other. The hens in The Henley Hut look happier now that Sage has been taken from them and we can leave the coop door open so we don’t have to get out there so early in the mornings. While I was trying to process the rooster on the chopping board I had to tell The Little Fulla, “Stop playing with the chicken!” He was trying to make it fly and so on. He has always had an amusingly disturbing imagination when it comes to home processed chickens. It’s because he knows they were alive before, so he likes to enact stories with them. What can I say? He is well-grounded.

The first batch of eggs for the season hatched and the chicks are all doing well. As lockdown for the Batch #1 eggs became imminent I had to decide which broody hen to give the Batch #2 eggs to, as they had to come out of the incubator. I’d gotten Morpheus into the Big Cage but not as soon as I’d liked as I had to clean it first. I’d forgotten that the spare green nestbox was in the Henley Hut with the blue hens. Instead of settling in the wood shavings nest I tried to make for her at the back, Morpheus sat right up by the door. I decided not to risk giving the eggs to her if she wasn’t properly settled yet and put them under Helen Cluck who was very much settled in her penthouse nestbox in Featherburn Lodge.

Back in the incubator, 14 out of the 16 Batch #1 eggs that got to lockdown size hatched. Out of Jack of Spades there were nine, from Morpheus, Dahlia and Trillium – all black. Out of Sage there were three from Judith – one black, one blue and one splash. Her one that didn’t hatch was blue, perfectly illustrating the expected offspring colour ratio from two blue parents of 50% blue, 25% black and 25% splash. We were all excited to get a splash chick. It is only the second purebred splash chick we’ve hatched, the first being a cockerel. I’ve been wanting a splash hen or two since we had lovely Kitty (and cockerel Splash Dot) some years ago. She was out of Mr Bingley and wasn’t a purebred, but she was beautiful with her snow white feathers splashed with blue.

Most of the chicks hatched on The Little Fulla’s birthday, which was an exciting consolation for him for not getting to have his party on the original date during lockdown. He was doing most of the looking after tasks and talking to them every day. He gets to raise two for Ag Day, one to keep his entry chick company. He really wanted the splash chick and I eventually decided that he could raise it because he wanted it so badly and because he’d been so helpful. His other chick is one of Dahlia’s.

I slowly shovelled the other 12 chicks to Morpheus, who had settled down at the back of the Big Cage. Stellar mum that she is, she took them all and I only had to worry about the possibility of my hand getting savaged. She calmed down a little after a while and I then just pushed each chick through a gap in the door. I only do this rather than putting them all under her because I know that she’ll accept them and they had friends in there already. I still always test by putting one or two under her to start with. Some of the chicks were six days old by the time they were given to her, which is not an issue for Morpheus. This worked out well because now The Little Fulla can just look after his two chicks in the brooder box inside. He has named them Sprinkles and Winkles. We’re all hoping splash Sprinkles is a girl…

Lastly, while I was in the blue hens’ pen one day, after the hatching, I was looking at Ninja who had finally grown most of her new feathers in. I was admiring her lacing, wondering why her colouring was much better than it had been before. I looked over at Judith and was like, “That’s not Judith!” ‘Judith’ was actually Ninja. It was glaringly obvious all of a sudden. Ninja is the one who has been laying and the mother of these chicks. I have to confess this is the worst chicken name bungle I’ve ever made. But I do have excuses:

  • Last time I spent a chunk of time around Ninja she was moulting.
  • Her new feathers are darker than they were before.
  • Judith looked different when she was moulting – so scrawny.
  • Ninja’s eggs were very distinctly long and pointy with slight wrinkles at one end before moulting and much more smooth and oval like Judith’s once she started laying again.
  • I have a baby.
  • I have baby brain fog.
  • I must have been doing the chicken chores so fast that I wasn’t even looking at the chickens’ faces properly.
  • I am sleep-deprived.

Fortunately, this prolonged name bungle doesn’t change anything, other than the ‘Ju’ that is written on some of the eggs. It just set me sailing on a trip on the fail boat.


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