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August 8, 2011 / 74

A Day in the Garden – AFTER the Rain

The Hen's Expanded World!!!

Yep. We received 1/2 inch of rain this AM. It arrived with a lot of noise in the middle of the night. Having fresh rain means that it’s time to get down on the ground at weed level and PULL!!! I rescued a couple of tomato plants from the joint grass before my arthritic hands said, “Hey… wait a minute!”

And while poking among the plants, I found our old friend Mr Tobacco Worm! Apparently one of our neighbors used to raise tobacco. As part of that he had a three story drying shed. I have no personal knowledge of such things, but my wife tells me that there is no place on earth that tobacco worms like better than tobacco drying sheds. But that said, it seems a tomato patch comes a close second.

So one of the tasks for the week is to see how many of the noxious creatures I can root out of the patch. We will be interested to see if the guineas like them.

Yes! Guinea freedom day is next Saturday! We have the ramps on all the pens now, and we think the guineas are fixated on their pen as “home” and so will come back to it of an evening. So the Free Range world of bugs and green grass (and the occasional fox, coyote, hawk, eagle, owl) is about to be theirs!!!

I don’t know if I mentioned it here or not, but last year we ordered a straight run of chicks – 25 day-old new-hatched chickens. The “straight run” means the hatchery doesn’t have to sex them, and we usually get a pretty close to even distribution of hens and roosters. That way we have some roosters for the pantry, and some hens to lay eggs for us. Last year, we received 20 roosters and only 5 hens – two of which died within the first month or so. So our three hens have been ruling over a spacious pen for nearly a year now, being occasionally visited by one nervy rooster who figured out he could fly over the pen wire  from inside and out.

After “culling” the roosters last summer, we ended up leaving five of them to do bug-patrol. Well… this year we ordered 25 pullets (juvenile hens), which means we didn’t WANT any more roosters, and in fact, it’s time to take the rooster numbers on down to one. (The ideal ratio is supposed to be around 20:1, hens:roosters) So sometime this week, I’ll have to turn four tough old roosters into canned chicken. Due to their age, they will have to be pressure cooked, and pressure canned. The pressure cooking will tenderize the meat, and the pressure canning will make sure we kill any possible botulism, same as with the green beans.

So today was a red letter day for the mature hens! I moved them from their “dungeon” (It was a pretty posh dungeon for chickens!) to their new pen yesterday evening.It was kind of funny – while carrying the first one, one of the junior roosters thought he saw his chance, and tried to “get at” the hen I was carrying! I had to fend him off with a boot, and then the Alpha rooster came over and took a hand, running him off.  He apparently figured that a mere human wouldn’t be up to the job of protecting his harem…  😮

The hen roost in the old pen was a 2 X 4 on saw horse legs, and they had a two story nesting box. The new digs have a 5 level angled ladder style roost, a single nesting box (straw in a frame) for now – and most importantly – a door/ramp to a pen outside!!!. In the picture above, what you are looking at is three hen tails outside, and if you look through the little door you can see some of the pullets inside in their pen.

Also today I “harvested” a few tomatoes so it turns out that the patch won’t be a complete waste. And I’m going to weed the Roma tomato plant tomorrow… if it rains part of the day. If it doesn’t rain, I have to take my Honda 750 Shadow Aero to get a new back tire on it and get it greased and oiled.

Frogger, Mom & Me

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