Sunday, March 17, 2013
This year I planted later because the almanac indicated a late frost. So I waited until February 15.
And it froze February 17. I had protected with simple covers over my bean plants and lost them all. My pots were in the shed where the cold drifted in through a vent I neglected to consider. I lost about half of my zucchini and cucumber plants and a few tomato plants.
By Feb 27 my plants were busting from their pots. I planted them out only to go through another freeze March 2 and 3. I dug out the Christmas lights and spent hours setting them out on plants and covering things with pots and buckets. Again, I lost half of what was in the garden of my watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and canteloup.
Thankfully, I sustained no loss from what was in the shed. I had enough plants to replace those I lots and promptly did so wiping me out of all cucurbits. I also planted all my sweet potato starts, tomatoes, eggplant, basil, and more beans
Then March 15th, I woke up to a frozen hose that I did not in any way expect. I left for the weekend and have yet to assess the damage. If the damage was significant I've decided to take a sabbath rest from gardening this year.
Why did I keep planting before the cold was over? I've never seen a freeze in March. Each freeze was separated by warm weather. And bugs roll in by June so most of those crops need to get in and out quickly to ever see a harvest. I gambled with mother nature and lost.
I look forward to enjoying it again next year.
Meanwhile, after 3 births and NO surviving babies, we gave Cream back to the person we got her from. She was able to get 8 surviving young from her. I think the kids and the dog and the general state of chaos we call home was just too much for Cream. Now its time to determine Sugar's fate as well. She was bred unsuccessfully twice this season. She was bred again just the past week. If we encounter another failed breeding, we will get rid of our last Californian/New Zealand cross and raise strictly Silver Foxes. They seem to handle the heat better, are better mothers, less skiddish, never bite, sometimes cuddle, and are just plain beautiful. They get the gold in my book.
Then February 13, we welcomed another batch of 12. We gave 1 to a friend, one mysteriously died after a few days but the remaining 10 were moved to a dilapidated chicken pen outside once they outgrew the rabbit pen in the porch.
Once the batch from Jan 8 were big enough to not be trampled by goats, I moved them into the pasture. They kept slipping through the fence and getting chased by Angel so I left the pen the had vacated empty for a few days so that midnight escapees could be sheltered from the perpetual-herder until she had appropriately trained them to stay in the pasture.
One day I came home to find that a roving goat had eaten the last of our collard greens, baby duck carcasses littering the yard and a completely vacant pen. It took a while to piece together the events that must have transpired. What is now assumed is that the ducks discovered a small hole in the pen. That hole may have been created by a curious puppy nose as it does dent inward. The ducks, never missing an opportunity to play follow-the-leader, ALL squeezed through the hole into the wide world they were unprepared for. Angel then herded them into the pasture... and some over the rainbow bridge. In the end, 5 babies were dead and 5 were retrieved alive and well from the pasture.
I had high hopes for a nest of 15 that another duck was sitting on. Then a cold snap came through at the beginning of March. The next time I checked the nest it was down to 6 eggs. Mama ducks know if the baby within has died and they remove it from the nest. A few days later 3 of those eggs were partially hatched, all dead and the mother had moved on. I think the cold was too much for them, despite their mother's vigilance all the way to the end. I have found no other nests at this time, but there are ample hiding places out there and they usually do a fabulous job of hiding them from me.
Back in the first week of September a shipment of chicks arrived. Remember the snake attack? Well those that survived the rat snake all reached maturity and we were anxiously waiting for our first eggs. Early in the morning of January 18, I was awoken by the most distressing sound- Cock-A-Doodle-DOOOOOO!!! Out of nowhere. No pubescent crackles to indicate a rooster had found its way into our pen of carefully sexed pullets. It was very surprising! It would not be so distressing if not for the fact that our neighbors are quite close to us. And we'd like to think that we are NOT the reason that it just so happens that every single house that borders our property line is for sale. So we had to deal with the rooster promptly. Now I see that when they give you a "free rare breed chick" with every order, you can most certainly guarantee that bird is a rooster. Next time I'll say, no thanks to the "free offer".
January 30th the first eggs started coming. We have 14 Red Stars and 3 Americaunas along with 11 Golden Nuggets that are still cranking enough to keep feeding them.
We have an abundance of eggs right now, but I'm freezing our excess for the lean times of winter. I beat together about 8 eggs as if they were to be scrambled and pour them into an ice cube tray. For our size ice cubes, 2 cubes = 1 egg. The thawed consistency is not quite the same so we don't use them for scrambled eggs, but they work in smoothies, baking or quiche.
Then Dulcinea shows me up.
On February 6, she effortlessly birthed 4 remarkably healthy babies for the second year in a row.
And makes enough milk to more than feed them all.
And yes, she does appear as though she's pulled her hair out, but its coming back in now and she moves with as much grace and dignity as ever.
I brought them in as they were born, washed them off in warm water and allowed the girl child to use the blow drier and the boys to rub them down with a towel. We have a new foster baby who squealed with delight then squealed in frustration at not being able to grab them with her own 2 little hands. Once they were clean and dry I put them in the kennel and milked Dulci. Normally we allow the moms to clean them off, but since it was so cold and she had them right in a major sand pit, she would have had to consume a large amount of sand to actually clean 4 babies. And the temperature of low 40s made me nervous to leave them out for long.
The things I do to make a boy smile. Or outright bellow with a hearty belly laugh.
I'm a sucker for my kids.