Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chick update, mid spring in the garden, and rats

Our new chicks are getting bigger and three of them are nearly completely feathered.  We are down to five now (one of the bantam chicks died, and though we don't know for sure, we think it might have been a freak accident involving a boisterous large chick who is prone to step/jump on the small ones).  I'm beginning to suspect that four of them are boys.  I'm certain about two of them, and am tending towards it with two more.  Of the last I'm unsure at this point;  it's the smallest and weakest chick, however, and is only now (at seven weeks) growing some feathers.  I hope it's a girl;  we don't want to have to eat everybody! 

The three big chicks are all still very friendly and curious;  one of them really enjoys sitting on our hands and getting comfy.  Another--the boisterous chick--always comes barging over when we come by, and when we offer treats the strong tiny chick is the first to rush up and grab some;  it can run right underneath the big chicks.  The little weak chick runs away crying if we open their box, or even look at it.

And now on to gardening.  Last year I sowed sorrel seeds and we enjoyed a moderate harvest in the summer.  A perennial, they began shooting up again last month, and I'm amazed at the growth on them.  They are a bit too sour when cooked plainly, but chopped and added to a tomato sauce, make a great veg addition.  It's so nice to have a vegetable from the garden at this time of year!  We've had sorrel a couple times a week for a few weeks now.  Franklin likes to pick and eat them fresh. 

It's not the first vegetable of the year though.  I have harvested a couple leeks, which were sown last spring too;  I still have around a dozen left, but it's about time to get them out of the bed to make room for my beans.  I also have some leftover chard, cabbage (greens, not heads), and of course the rhubarb, all of which have been sampled this spring.
Patio gardening
In the midst of the spring gardening rush, I now have most of my seeds sown, and lots of seedlings planted out.  I have plenty of peas on the go--2/3 of them are planted out now, with the last 1/3 ready for planting;  the oldest batch is about 9 to 12 inches tall.  I'm using my wooden raised bed on my patio as a seed bed temporarily, with vegetables and herbs coming up like crazy.  It's just a mass of greenery at the moment.  I've been moving them out (and eating some of them straight, like the arugula).  In a week or two, I'll plant it with squash and cucumber, I think. 

My onion sets are coming along beautifully, and I have carrot seedlings popping up in my two big planters.  My beet seedlings in the ground seem to be still alive (they were badly mauled last year by slugs).  I bought extra seeds as a precaution. 
Onions growing nicely
I also have new strawberry and asparagus plants out, both from seed.  I still have a few older strawberry plants (two years old maybe?) but my original asparagus died a lingering death several years ago.  I probably got about 20 spears in total from ten plants--over about five years.  Hope these new seedlings are more successful...

And of course, I've got flowers coming up everywhere.  I've planted out about 10 different kinds of flowers grown from seed (marigolds, cosmos, nicotiania, clary, etc), and have plenty of familiar faces blooming now:  tulips, iris, bluebells, honesty.  My two cherry trees are covered in blossom, as is the berberis (an amazing orange), my new Asian pear, the two apples, and the red and black currants.  My plum tree flowered for the first time and is forming tiny fruits;  I'm very excited about it and about the little almond tree.  Last year we got our first almond harvest (25 nuts) and the tree looks much more full and leafy this year.  And there are two little figs forming on my tiny fig tree! 
Main veg garden with white cherry blossom and red tulips
One unwelcome addition to my garden, however, is a family of rats.  We had seen them helping themselves to chicken food, so have taken some measures to discourage them:  chickens no longer have free access to food, but get three supervised meals a day (and all the grass, weeds, and bugs they can find).  Kitchen scraps go into a covered compost bin and not an open pile.  We have raised the hen house slightly, so a curious cat can fit under it:  an eyewitness (that's me) saw a neighboring cat catch a rat next to the house.  This cat has been a regular visitor, and it has made at least one other suspected--though unverified--catch.  Hopefully without an easy source of food and with the help of that thoroughly excellent feline, the rats will move on.

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