Chickens hate snow. At least ours do. But boy, are they entertaining in it. We made a quick visit to the farm after the weekend’s snow and ice. The cows were too engrossed in their hay piles to acknowledge us, but Taco was unusually gentlemanly, almost pleased to see us. But the hens wouldn’t budge out of the coop. The two oldest girls refused to even leave the roost bar, apparently hunkering down until spring. Coquette, one of the younger girls, stood in the doorway, paralyzed at the idea of having to step on … white stuff. Chatham Co. got much more snow than the freezing rain we had. Either way, It surely must have looked like the world had become the frozen Star Wars Hoth planet. Enticed by treats, Coquette took a deep, daring breath and flew as far as a fat Orpington can. (Not very). Fortunately for her, the world didn’t end and she carried on merrily scarfing down scratch. Taco presided but didn’t flare at us once, even turned his back to Paul to nibble some snow off the shed. I guess full belly trumps bravado.
We also picked up some additional honey over the weekend. So we are pleased to say that we have honey back in stock in all 3 sizes (110ml, 8oz, & 1lb)! Thanks to increasing daylight hours, egg production is starting to pick up slowly. The newest peepers should begin laying in April when things will really take off. So for now, we have eggs occasionally available to lucky and persistent customers. I had some this morning and, wow, those yolks are neon orange! So give us a buzz if your honey jars are empty or if you’re feeling lucky enough to score some free range eggs.
“Mistakes are exciting!” This I learned from Joel Salatin in his famous and funny You Can Farm. Mistakes show you what doesn’t work or gives you a new answer to a different problem. I tried explaining the idea to Spaghetti as he fought through Algebra homework, but he wasn’t convinced. I was on the fence too. In my earnest effort to capture the Meyer lemon season in jam, I’ve had 3 failed batches. Exciting. There’s not a whole lot fresh and local for our product line this time of year so I thought a Honey Meyer Lemon Jam would be awesome. But it’s not jam. It’s … sauce?
Pectin (jam’s gooey thickener) is a finicky thing – especially with a lot of citric acid in the mix… hello lemons! There is a fine line between liquid and congealed gelatin. I can nail small batches but it doesn’t scale well. 1-2 jars doesn’t stock the store shelves. And since it’s not fitting with our style to just pile in the sugar to thicken things up, Meyer Lemon Jam may just have to wait.
Exciting mistake? Well, yes. While the result doesn’t pass muster for the store shelves as jam, it’s a fine condiment in its own right. It has been the perfect sweetener in my nightly hot tea and a great mix-in to roasted root veggies. (Parsnips with honey & lemon? Yes!). My lemony “mistake” will also be a great shortcut for summer lemonade. So maybe it does have a future. (If you want a darn good cup of tea in the meantime, drop by for a visit.)
In the first year of anything (farming or even algebra) there are lots of mistakes in store. I accept that. My goal is to make lots of mistakes (that means you’re trying!) but not make the same one repeatedly. As the Meyer lemon season wanes, I have my sights set on a bunch of new farm
mistakes projects. In any event, I’m taking life’s lemons and making, well you know, excitement.
lemons posing all cute and innocent-like
lemons behaving badly
This weekend was supposed to be the big compost coronation event for the garden-to-be. I’ve been working out the garden details on paper for a while. That is the fun part. Drawing, mentally growing some stuff, then redrawing after the mental deer eat it… Plus there are the piles of seed catalogs extolling the virtues of all of the must-grow varieties. We need 6 types of kale, right? So this weekend was supposed to be the start of the much needed soil building. Then this happened…
The load got delivered but not without us paying some stupid tax to the awesome wrecker guy Roy. (More on the soil building soon). So we jumped on the next project, expanding the chicken coop to house the little peepers who have long since outgrown their brooder house.
Spaghetti nicknamed the brooder the Little Peepers fun park. It has been updated several times with new improvements, including a swing. (They are all a bit skeptical of it). But they will be moving out to the coop before long so we have added on to the existing coop (Taco’s house). The great part is that we were able to source almost all of the wood used in the coop expansion from other projects on the farm. We are slowly dismantling the former house and using as much of the wood as possible elsewhere. The new coop has 2 rooms now, one for Taco’s harem and the other for the new pullets and future birds. We’ve doubled the coop space to 160sf which will allow us plenty of room to grow but leave everyone lots of elbow, er, wing room. Spaghetti even built a new chicken ladder for the older girls to hop their way up to the roost bar instead of parkour-ing straight up.
There are a few finishing touches to add: new feeder, extra window, nest box, more roost bars.. But the majority of the work is done. Which is good, because the little peepers are not so little!
Spaghetti’s ladder. Henna and a few shier girls enjoying the more accessible roost.