After a couple of very cold days in the middle of the week, the weather warmed to lovely with a chance of perspiration. So in defiance of everything I know about gardening and leaving soil bare, I started degrassing the garden. This little adventure began with pulling up the straggling broccoli and cabbage plants I had abandoned after they provided only a meager little harvest. I chunked the plants into the chicken run and the chickens had a ball! I put air in the tires of the riding mower (the push mower is broken) and then had to convince said mower to come out of hibernation. I keep stabilizer in all our farm fuel, but start on the first try after a couple of months off . . . not happening. It did finally start, and I succeeded in shaving a little bit off the top of the dormant Bermuda grass.
Then I had to convince the tiller to come out of hibernation. Fifty pulls later, it finally agreed and then it went like this. One pass down the length of the garden. Stop. Unclog the tines (I hate Bermuda grass!) Repeat until a quarter of the garden has been roughed up by the tiller. Turn off the tiller. Rake out the grass. Laugh at the ducks who are happily at work debugging and deslugging where the tiller has been. Lower the tines on the tiller and begin again. Discover potatoes growing fifteen feet away from where I planted them. Pull more grass out of the tiller tines and wish I’d worn deodorant. Rake, lower the tines again and repeat. Discover more potatoes where I didn’t plant any. Rake a final time and then call a minion to haul away the piles of Bermuda grass down to the compost pile. I have very pretty dirt. I guess the errant potatoes sprouted from seed thrown off by the ones I planted. Either that, or they have learned a lot from the Bermuda grass and are spreading by underground rhizomes or maybe the gnomes are playing jokes on me . . .nah.
Unfortunately, my favorite weather guy is telling me there’s a major pattern shift coming and about the best I can hope for is normal temperatures, but really, there’s a better chance of way below normal. So no early planting in the newly cleaned up garden beds. The good news is, I asked my husband to help me with the door for the white room and he rather outdid himself . He built and hung the door, retrieved the unused water heater from under the house and installed it in the white room on a very sturdy stand. We can now fill it with the hose and then I can gravity feed 30 gallons to all the little plants I will soon be starting out there. Cool!
I moved the roosters out of the two laying flocks tonight. They are going to wake up in the morning to find their girls a couple of fences away and they have absolutely no chance of any nookie. (Unless they remember they are birds and can fly and chickens rarely do remember that little fact.) I made the move for three reasons: First, the roosters are really doing a lot of damage to my hens’ backfeathers and I haven’t enough chicken saddles for all of them. Second, I need to have my hens roosterless for at least two weeks (preferably a month) before I breed them so I make sure the roosters I choose to breed are actually the fathers of the chicks. I plan to start breeding the chickens the first part of February but I’m still working out the logistics of that process. And finally, frostbite. The roosters that live out in the chicken tractors fared much better during the recent cold snap with no supplemental heat. They had virtually no frostbite whatsoever. The roosters in the coop, especially the Sussex roos, took a bit of damage to their combs, despite the heat lamps I put on them. The humidity is just too high in the coop and I can’t get enough windows open to bring it down.
Then there are the ducks. Despite the fact the days are short and the nights are cold, my ducks have decided to molt. They took a week off from laying, but have resumed egg making. But instead of three a day, I get one or two and sometimes none. Extra protein is about all I can do for them. They picked a rotten time to do this. It is normally a fall thing, but, according to what I read about ducks, the first year molt is very unpredictable and there are two of them -The molt into spring plumage which is dull and unattractive even for the male and then another molt in the early fall into their breeding colors.
The chickens though are making up for their slack. Even the youngest pullets have begun to lay and I’m getting around 35 eggs per day out of my 60 layers. Roughly 2.5 dozen eggs a day of sellable size. One day, I actually got 42! I collect two or three times a day because I’ve found if I don’t, I get quite a few cracked eggs because hens like to lay eggs in the same nest. I am also mindful of the Dorking reputation for going broody and I don’t like to leave anything in the nest boxes to encourage that at this point in the year.
Lastly, I want to mention I have a brand new favorite recipe for bread. It’s called European Potato Rye and it’s wonderful. But wouldn’t you know, the grocery stores no longer carry Rye flour. I have enough for one more batch and then I am going to have mail order rye flour. It’s a sad thing to go the baking aisle of the grocery store these days. The selection of cake and brownie mixes is dwindling as is my choices for flour varieties. Few people bake from scratch anymore. Heck, judging by the packed parking lots every night at local restaurants, few people even cook anymore.