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One of the exits to Paddocks for the chickens

What a summer! Chicken and veggie adventures!

And here it is harvest again. End of year review — in words and photos:

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June –

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Peeling garlic at the MVA – Oskar’s driving test!

Year in review: 2016 – started out wet, but ended so very dry. Cool spring, so Asparagus came up late this year – (it loved the fall manure Edward put down! lots of new plants.) We got some Strawberries (4 quarts?)  Spring Garlic – we ordered cloves and proved once again don’t buy seed from catalogue! Just buy grocery store (organic). We missed our black raspberries this year – but froze a batch of our blueberries.  Finally a better year for Green Peppers! (But can someone tell me why they would start out strong, and then peter out, making little thin walled fruits??)  Yay Cucumbers!! best production in ages.

Not a super year for Tomatoes here – how about yours?   LOTS of Green Beans!  The usual problems with Summer Squash and low yields – boo hiss!  every single mold and bug that likes to kill squash plants must thrive in our yard, just waiting. Butternuts needed more water early on, so they are small, but many! Great luck with Herbs – I have dehydrated big jars of dried basil, lavender, and sage, and some rosemary.

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August brought us lots of peppers

But my proudest garden moment was this week’s final planting of Lettuce and Kale seedlings in a south facing garden, which I think I can keep going well into the fall. We’ll see.

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September brought us lettuce, greens beans, and herb harvests

 

And then there were the chicken/fox/racoon adventures. img_5100

Chickens added in to increase the laying, and chickens lost. More new chickens added to the remaining flock, and chickens lost again! Terrible. I returned from a summer trip to find multiple carcasses,  and feathers strewn about where a fox had gotten in. We blocked the fox entry (he’d dug under a paddock fence) by driving stakes into the ground. The raccoon invasions and killings were harder to figure out, solved eventually thanks to the bulldog Trumbull, who although he very happy to chew on a chicken himself, can be counted on for ferocious interest in any raccoon that tries it!  Trum scented the first raccoon hanging inside the chicken run, hiding in the dark in the branches of the hated mulberry. (Remember the hated mulberry? It may be scrapped). Edward found the carcass of a chicken, but walked right past that hanging coon, searching the ground and ceiling with a flashlight, until Trum’s intense staring gave the culprit away.

When I was a kid, racoons were my favorite animal –  such cute faces! The awful thing about racoons in a flockster’s world is that they just kill.  They don’t even eat the bird they kill.  I am sure there is some kind of animal logic in there, somewhere. Some reason why. But I no longer like raccoons. Foxes have my respect, they take their kill away and feed their cubs with it. But raccoons break in for the sole purpose of eating the chicken feed!  So why kill the roosting chickens?

We never did educate ourselves about racoon behaviors, but Edward did find the gap in the hard-cloth fencing where coons of all sizes were sliding in, and that was the end of the cycle of killing. We also began calling chickens in at dusk. No more “sleeping out” in the trees on hot summer nights!   Better hot and stuffy in the coop than dragged to a shocking and untimely death.  Our final additions to the flock are three Golden Marans from our local, down the road feed store (local readers find here:  Glen Dale Feed Store) – the marans were a pricey addition, but I decided I wanted some dark brown eggs.

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Our three Golden Marans and an Orpie enjoying grass!

So, what to do with this harvest coming in?  Mostly just eat it.

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September gathering in our messy kitchen

In other years I spent hours canning salsa and applesauce, but I find myself more likely to freeze things or dry them in the dehydrator nowadays. I’d like to come back to canning. Someday. All that steamy work in August/September pays off nicely later, with quicker meals during the winter months. And maybe next year I will learn how to use the pressure cooker canner that is waiting for me, upstairs… if I conquer my fears!  With the higher heat of the pressure cooker, I can put up just about anything (green beans! homemade soup!), where with the usual boiling water bath you can only safely handle high acid foods like fruits and tomatoes. I did start some applesauce last night (not from our fruits, but our friend Joel at the Bowie Farmers Market.  You can always do better, and learn more, about how to grow your own and feed yourself.

But for this year I’m pretty satisfied with the chicken flock safe and laying, some frozen and some dried remembrances of summer’s growing put up, nurturing a couple beds of lettuce and greens to help create October breakfasts and lunches.

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Pinning our hopes on the baby kale for fall–