Monday, August 22, 2011


I let the chickens out of the coop when I went out to clip the spent daylilies this morning. The 18 pullets have begun to lay eggs while only a couple of the original flock, now reduced to only six, lay an egg now and then. We can’t predict the number of daily eggs, yet, but we hope they’ll settle into a nice production routine.

Moments ago, I heard the shriek of a red tail hawk and went out to check the hens. We think a young hawk has dive-bombed the flock unsuccessfully a few times. While it hasn’t taken any, it’s trained them to be extremely watchful for daytime predators from above.

On Friday, while Savannah was mowing the lawn, she saw the flock happily pecking at whatever chickens peck at in the grass near the raspberry patch. I went out later for a turn at mowing and saw one lone white and black speckled hen cowering in the raspberries. Eight more were hiding in the coop and one was in a dark back corner of the barn. That meant 14 were missing and, try as I might, I couldn’t find them. Later, all of them came out of hiding, from the densest part of the herb garden. The mint and marshmallow, oregano, and a stray squash vine shielded them from preying eyes.

Just now, when I walked out to check, Charles the resident woodchuck made a dash for his hole at the base of the basswood tree. Two yellow shafted flickers flew in opposite directions across the yard and a blue jay swooped into the oak at the far end of the lawn. I couldn’t see a hawk but sixteen of the hens were still in the coop, taking their dust baths in the shelter of the doorway. Eight have apparently scrambled for parts unknown. I hope they’re safe. I really can’t act as a daily chicken shepherd.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

August 2011 update

What a lush wet summer! The rains just keep coming and that's both good and bad. Spring rains during plum, cherry and apple blossom time led to poor pollination and little fruit production. I harvested the cherries, picking a few as I rode the lawn mower between the trees. I enjoyed this year's crop but no one else will. I know, that sounds selfish but the birds got a few, too. And that was it. We will eat the plums and perhaps the apples, too.

The grapes have loved the heat and rain and it looks like we'll have the biggest grape harvest in years. The Frontenacs that were planted last fall won't produce much. It was an important year for them to get their roots established. One vine has a few and we're looking forward to tasting them although they're right at the height for my little flock of roving hens to get to them first.

The garlic is ready for harvest. Yesterday was a dry day and I should have started the dig. Instead I weeded, dead-headed flowers, tied up tomato and grape vines and prepared for a tour. The rain has returned today, so will look to the first of next week to dig the garlic.

The hollyhocks are producing an outstanding bloom, as are the daylilies. Though we're into August, which can often be a dry month with grass turning brown and leaves dropping, everything is as lush as a tropical jungle (and we know what a tropical jungle looks like after visiting the Amazon in Peru and Bolivia this last March).

  The vinegar maker is busy waxing newly bottled vinegars this morning. He has plums and apricots beginning the fermentation process, rhubarb finishing in air-locked carboys, and a variety of vinegars nearly ready for infusing or bottling. We've also harvested herbs when they were at their peak. They're in the freezer for use later in the year. The basil is tall and lush; ready for pesto, infusion or freezing. Next month we'll dig horseradish and maybe start some tomato wine.

Hollyhocks 2011

The buildings are almost obscured by the height of the plants
 in the herb garden.