Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 2-12

moving day for pullets 
As time continues its relentless march and we move ever closer to Market season, the “jobs ju jour” around here start to fall easily into a most predictable rhythm. The calendar and Facebook continually remind us that for years and years now lambs and pullets and the early stages of garden preparation shape our February days. (and sometimes the nights)

take my word for's COLD!
(and that cloud has SNOW in it)

Spring Flowers in the backyard

The weather has been somewhat temperamental this week. It is quite possible that we had a taste of all four seasons in seven short days. Abnormally warm temperatures gave way to rain and a little snow, followed by one bitterly cold night. ...and the winds...  I guess it should come as no surprise that it seems like everyone has been sick. I’m guessing antibiotic sales have been on the increase. (Even I can attest to doing my part to fund the medical/pharmaceutical community lately) Everyone is blaming this on the erratic and unusual weather. In addition, the orchardists are starting to worry about those swelling blossoms on the fruit trees.

eaten kale
The constantly shifting temperatures make it next to impossible to keep the crops in the hoophouses flourishing. The lettuce can’t handle the hot days followed by frigid nights and just withers, dies and “melts” into the ground, rendering it useless for sale (and just plain gross). If that weren’t enough, some creature made its way into the hoophouse and effectively destroyed all the kale. Showing no consideration or taste, it ate its way through the chickweed as well. I honestly thought I was seeing things at first. What had been lush and green just the day before was now clipped close to the ground and shows no sign of further growth. An investigation was launched. Beyond a small hole burrowed under the side, we could find no real clues as to the identity of the intruder. The hole was filled, traps were set and plans were made to re-plant. However, this means we are effectively out of the off-season greens market. (which may be a good thing as we really need to focus on new crops for a new season).

all that is left
what a mess!

As if that weren’t enough excitement in the hoophouse…

at first, this seemed real funny
I’m not sure if the winds were to blame or if Gus and Ellie simply took it upon themselves to do a little gardening, but somehow, they ended up where they really are NOT supposed to be. Not only were they both in the garden area, but Gus managed to get himself locked INSIDE hoophouse #2. (maybe he was hunting the kale-eating intruder) Needless to say, he was most appreciative to get out. However, in his attempts for freedom, his enormous claws tore a couple holes in the plastic skin of the hoophouse. So, now, there’s another entry on the “to-do” list.
one of several holes from Gus' enormous claws

Despite the changeable weather, or perhaps because of it, we needed to get the pullets into the henhouse to begin their assimilation into the flock. They should begin laying eggs in the very near future so they need to get used to the nestboxes in the henhouse.

catching pullets
The move involved catching each pullet and trimming one of her wings. Chickens can’t fly very well anyway, but by clipping just one wing, they have even less lift and when startled they won’t be able to get over the fence and become truly free-range chickens headed off to who-knows-where. Each bird also got a colored leg band. We color-code each year’s flock so we can tell them apart and rotate out the older birds at the end of the season. (this helps keep egg production somewhat steady)
trimming wing
2017 - GREEN leg bands

last one

in the henhouse

Speaking of steady egg production, a lot of folks do not understand that hens are incredibly light-sensitive. Egg production naturally drops off with the short days of winter. In some cases, it becomes non-existent. This may be okay if you have a few pet hens. But, for those who rely on egg production for their income, and those who appreciate eating eggs, this can be a real problem. Lights and heat are used in the industry to keep egg production constant. And, before you find fault with this, imagine a world where there were no (or at least very few) eggs, or egg-based products for several months out of every year.  With our own egg supply at the lowest level in years, we decided to put some supplemental light in the henhouse in hopes of increasing egg production. The light comes on just before dark and goes off around 10pm. Those few hours of additional light seem to have helped tremendously.  
FYI...hens do not like being photographed while laying eggs...
Not only does the cold weather impact egg production,
eggs freeze (and break) quickly in frigid temperatures.
But, Gus doesn't mind...he eats them like popsicles!

With the pullets situated, the Boss could clean out the brooder in anticipation of the arrival of baby broiler chicks next week. And, the cycle continues…we are less than 10 weeks from fresh chicken once more!

first seeds of 2017
With the countdown ticking away in the back of my mind, I knew it was time to clean up the greenhouses and get the early Spring brassica crop started. On Tuesday afternoon, I seeded about 800 broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. These will be going into the garden in early April.

By Friday (despite 16* overnight) we began to see germination!

I love this sight!

Starting seeds in our small propagation greenhouses allows us to grow our all own transplants and the benefits are numerous. We have control over variety, timing and quantity. However, greenhouse growing does indeed lead to another area for diligence. Every evening the little seedlings must be tucked in for the night to keep them safe from the cold. And, every morning they must be uncovered so that they do not cook in the heat of the day. We run heaters at night to keep the temperature above freezing, but during the day the temperatures can soar to well over 100* even if it is freezing outside, so it is in our best interest to pay close attention. I have killed more little plants than I care to admit by inadvertently “cooking” them because I was distracted.

heading out to check the greenhouses

toasty seedlings

It's cold in the greenhouse
these water droplets are FROZEN

propagation table temperature
(even though it's freezing outside)
greenhouse supervisors

I can’t tell you how I am looking forward to fresh broccoli!

The news from the barn is…
just chillin' in the sunshine

…well, that there is no news. Not yet.

The first of the ewe lambs is due to give birth any time. Her ovine sisters will follow suit shortly. The other lambs are growing well, although it seems that there are a number of weather-related issues this season. We have a couple of lambs who have had respiratory issues, a couple more that got chilled (and now are sporting snazzy sweaters) and then there have been indications that parasites may be making an early appearance this year. During the warm weather, the sheep were turned out in the paddock. Nibbling that short grass seems like a great idea, but potentially exposes them to parasites. We administered an anthelmintic (de-wormer) and I’m keeping a close eye on everyone. Parasites can take lambs out of this world very quickly with little warning…so, we stay proactive when it comes to health issues. It pays to stay vigilant.
checking the lambs

…and that was that.
pretty skies this time of year

full moon through the trees

Today, we are under a HIGH WIND WARNING. That means we could experience gusts up to 60mph! (although, I think they are only predicting 40) That also means that I’m going to be giving serious thoughts to hunkering down under the shed with Gus so I don’t have to listen to the wind wailing around the corners of the house and hear the greenhouse moaning and shuddering as the big gusts grab the plastic. Of all the types of weather we experience, WIND has to be my least favorite.

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday! 

birdwatching at sunrise

Thanks for stopping by…come back and “visit” again real soon.


  1. You have such wonderful pictures on here. I love the one with the sun in the lambs' faces, as well as the cat on the post at the end. -Jenn

  2. I very much enjoyed my walkabout with you. I'm so ready for spring, I'm sure you are also!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope you'll drop by often.
      Spring can't come soon enough for me.