Sunday, September 6, 2009

USDA Grade "Tiny"

Gingersnap, our 22 week old golden Campine pullet, laid her first egg today. She is our smallest pullet and we think she is the cutest too.

Here is her little egg next to a large one that one of the Orpingtons laid. She's our only white egg layer. Derek said he's going to have it for breakfast tomorrow morning. He better fry up a couple extra ones or he'll be hungry within an hour!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Future Twelve Acres Trees

This is my bounty of locally collected acorns and nuts so far this fall. I am a big squirrel right now, going from location to location collecting nuts from trees as I go. In the basket are Bur Oaks and Black Walnuts. The tray is holding Shagbark Hickories on the left and Ohio buckeyes on the right. The buckeyes are a first for me. I have searched for these and had a hard time finding this particular species. Yellow buckeyes are easy to find, but Ohio buckeyes are not quite as common around here.

Don't those Buckeye seeds look prickly? I was surprised at how sharp they are as I gathered them. I am planting them far from the house so that I won't step on any of these prickly landmines. I think they would make a wonderful burglar deterrent, although most burglars don't go running around barefoot in the middle of the night.

As soon as the protective husks are off they are ready to plant. I will check the nuts for signs of mold, rot or borer holes and discard any that are affected. The rest will be planted immediately so that they can go through the necessary winter stratification that will crack the seed hulls and allow germination to take place. It's especially important to get the buckeyes in the ground as soon as possible because if they dry and shrivel up the embryo inside probably won't germinate. I always plant two seeds in each hole just in case one is bad. The trick is to space them a few inches apart so that if both germinate I can remove one without risking the other's root structure.

I am lucky in that I will be young enough to watch any trees that result from these seeds grow into adolescence. My grandchildren will get to see them in their full glory. Growing trees from seed, while easy, requires patience and a vision for the future. I've always equated growing trees with a deep sense of hope.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Year In Eggs

It's official, the year of counting eggs from my 14 layers is finally over! I have completed the chart, at right, so that you can see how things turned out. If you're thinking about getting chickens or are just curious about how many eggs a hen can potentially lay, it will give you an idea of what to expect.

My girls averaged 18 eggs per hen, per month which is a 58% lay rate per month.
I have 5 Buff Orpingtons, 6 Black Australorps, 2 Plymouth Barred Rocks, and 1 Buff Plymouth Rock. Four of my hens went broody in May and June which reduced their production dramatically. I went from about a dozen eggs a day down to about 7 on average! When August rolled around, some of my hens began to molt which also slowed production. Hens normally molt for the first time when they reach 18 months of age.

Recently a young woman asked me how many chickens she should get to start her own backyard flock. I told her to buy almost twice as many chicks as she wanted to produce the number of eggs she wanted each day. In other words, if she wants 3 eggs a day, she should buy about 5 chicks. If she wants a dozen eggs a day, some for herself and some to sell, she should buy about 20 to 22 chicks.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that influence production, such as age, breed, number of daylight hours, but I shant go into that here. All that information can be found online, but until now I had never seen any data about rate of lay during a one-year period.
So there you have it. I hope it is as interesting to you as it was to me. I'm just glad I don't have to count eggs every day anymore!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Duck Eggs

Can you tell which one is the duck egg? My ducks lay jumbo eggs and I like to use them in cakes. They seem to make cakes more moist. I can't explain why but that's been my experience. Duck eggs are also more nutritious than chicken eggs. For a comparison of nutrients, click here.

While we're on the subject of duck eggs, I woke up this morning to see that Macaroni has 10 brand new fuzzy babies under her. There are 3 yellow ones and 7 dusky gray ones. I'm going to sell this batch of ducklings. I've got enough in the freezer and ducks are no fun to butcher. Chickens are much easier. It's impossible to scald a duck carcass--they're waterproof! DUH!

Here's Macaroni with her new babies.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Some Favorites

My favorite native American wildflower is the purple coneflower. They are so beautiful and so easy to grow, no garden should be without at least one clump of them. I always grow mine from seed and have never had to buy a single plant. They do really well in Ohio clay and just glow despite the heat and sun of late summer.

I only grow the species, Echinacea purpurea, and none of the frou-frou hybrids. Anyone who knows me knows I wouldn't be caught dead with hybrids in my garden. Yes, I'm a plant snob.

This little spot of wildflowers follows the curve of the driveway. A white birch is to the left and is already 8 feet tall after only 2 years! This little bird house was our first project when we moved in three years ago. I love it. Tree swallows successfully raised their young in it this spring and it is currently inhabited by a large group of paper wasps, which are welcome in my garden because they are one of nature's best organic pesticides! I often weed within one foot of the bird house and they never bother me. I've even supported myself by grabbing the wooden post but they seem to know that I mean them no harm and they ignore me. I often find myself extolling the virtues of wasps as a gardener's friends to those who fear them. Mud daubers are equally good at killing insects, although they specialize in killing only spiders which they place in the cells of their nests for their larvae to feed on. Gruesome, but true!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Lofty Hope & Dream

Derek took his first instructional flight today in a Cessna 172 with Rex Damschroder as his instructor. He'll be 15 in November and his goal is to earn his student pilot's license by his 16th birthday. He can then earn his private pilot's license at 17. Rex reported that Derek has a natural ability and did above average in some of the skills!

I didn't get a photo, but there are two DC3s at the Fremont Municipal Airfield, both of which dropped paratroopers at Normandy on D-Day. One is in the process of being restored. Also, one of the NASA astronauts who is currently in space earned his pilot's license at this very airfield.

The poem, High Flight, has over the years become a mantra to pilots. It is reproduced here as a tribute to, and in memory of pilots of all generations.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941

Monday, June 29, 2009

My How They've Grown!

This bright orange lily bloomed today. It's so bright that I can even see it from a distance. My lavender plants are so lush and beautiful right now. I planted a dozen more this year I love them so much. The bees love them too.

Macaroni's babies are three weeks old and so fun to watch. I got a video of them eating coon tail in the pond today. Murphy and Macaroni are keeping watch over them, although Murphy doesn't like them getting too close to him. The hens have started laying eggs again, which I found out quite by accident. They're using the same nests that they hatched their babies in and I happened to notice the eggs while looking under the front porch. I gathered them all though, I've got enough ducklings.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Summer Rolls Along

I had my back surgery June 18. Everything went really well. The surgeon removed some arthritic bone from my spine that was putting pressure on my left sciatic nerve. The first few days were rough but I'm feeling better now. I am taking it easy and Jim has been very good (too good) at doing things for me. I nicknamed him Nurse Ratchet. The boys are away on vacations of their own and it's been just the two of us. I have to admit, I'm really liking it! I can't believe how much less I spend on groceries!

The ducklings are growing and growing. They will be ready for butchering in a few short weeks. I've got 15 of the fuzzy little things and I plan to keep one or two hens. The rest will feed us. I gave away 3 of my adult drakes and things have quieted down as a result. My two adult hens seem relieved! I have a nice pair of Cayugas and an equally nice pair of blue Swedish ducks. Sounds like a nice flock size to me.

Baby chicks are also growing. I am only going to keep two of the seven: the little silkie and Ollie's firstborn, a little barred rock mix. She's cute and she was the first chick to hatch at Twelve Acres so I simply must keep her. I haven't decided on a name for her yet, although Scooter seems to fit her. She zips around like nobody's business!

We're living our lives day to day--enjoying picking vegetables from the garden, collecting eggs and watching nature all around us. I enjoy the simple things of life; they have so much more meaning than material things. It's a paradigm shift for me and I'm embracing it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Violet's Babies

Violet's babies hatched Sunday. She brought them out to meet everyone today. The little white one is a Silkie, the red one is a Rhode Island Red. The largest black/cream one is an Australorp. The remaining two are Australorp/Barred Rock mixes.

There are no more hens sitting on eggs now. I may let a broody hatch some eggs later this fall, but we're done for now. My back surgery is the 18th and I won't be able to look out for broody hens for a while.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lunch Time

Lunch time for the kids while mom rests by the irises. The drakes watch from the water.