Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cranky times in the coop and compost bin...

So, in for lunch and I just have to share my delightful repast with you.... Ok, this really is bragging, but I can't help myself.  I guess I am as bad as a new grandma, but...

My salad included lettuce, chinese cabbage, swiss chard, arugula, cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, sugarnap peas, basil, onion, boiled egg, cheese (goat of course), and this season's first tomatoes!  Yes, ripe tomatoes! (Sungold cherry tomatoes)... I cannot tell you how satisfying this is.  Everything except the dressing was produced right here at Ole Lake.  Now if I could just grow olive and lemon trees...

Anyway, here is a slightly out of focus picture.  I am dedicating this photo to my friend Leslie, who likes to photograph her culinary creations, and does a much better job of it:

Today's special:  Ole Lake Salad Supreme!  
Now, about the crankiness alluded to  in the post title up there...

The little chicks and their moms moved yesterday to the big room of the Winter Coop.  They are now big enough to jump over the little fence that held them.  The problem was that Lucy was really mean to the bigger chicks.  Any hen will peck at chicks that are not her own when they come too near, which Mama Red does, but Lucy was nasty and chased them all over.  The solution to this problem was to remove Lucy.  She has moved back to the summer coop.  Mama Blue, by the way, moved out a few days ago.  She let me know she was ready to go by starting to lay eggs again, which amazes me really, because these Austrolorp hens are five years old.
Mama red keeps a watchful eye on the chicks... it is a jungle out there!

It was pretty cool this morning, so after sending the Scoutmaster off to the wilds of Wisconsin for camp and taking care of some house chores, I decided to do a couple of tasks that I have not been getting to.  The first was to clean out the beds in the greenhouse, which didn't take long.  The second was to clean out the compost bin that I am not currently using.  It is overrun with long grass, but under that is some of the good stuff.  And, it turned out, some bad stuff too.  I was pulling out long grass by the fist-fulls thinking this was going pretty well when the buzzing began.  I didn't pay much attention, as there are so many bees around here there is always buzzing when I am in the garden.  Bees do not bother me and I rarely get stung, even when other people are.  I'd like to think it's because they know I like them and mean them no harm, but more likely it is that they just don't mind the smell of me.  Anyway, the yellow-jackets that have taken up residence in the compost took offense to me ripping their home apart (go figure) and let me know in a rather painful way.  I'm  not sure what to do about it at this point. Spraying poison into my compost pile is not an option.  Maybe the Rollie+blowtorch method?

So, time to get busy again.  I will have lots of milk to use this week with Kevin gone, so will be making plenty of yogurt, cheese, and this afternoon, chocolate pudding.  (Of course I will share with you Kori!)

I will leave you with  more chick pictures:
The little chicks have gotten to that "ugly" stage...

This older chick looks to be a cockerel
And this one is a fine looking pullet.  Of the six, it looks like there are four pullets.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday doings


Hey locals!  The Crow Wing County Fair is this coming week.  They do it pretty well over there.  Also, next weekend is Riverboat Days in Aitkin with a lot going on, including the opening of the new exhibit at the Jacques Art Center.  It's the Community Art Project and should be pretty awesome to see.  Maybe you can spot my little quilt block.

Today everyone is busy as usual.  Kevin is getting ready to go to camp tomorrow.  For those of you who may not know, he is the Scoutmaster of the local boyscout troop.  I think he stays with it just so he can go to camp every year!  Anyway, when cleaning out the troop trailer, he came across these bigger-than-family size cans of condensed soup, which were expired.  Would the chickens eat this?

Oh yes!
Mmmm Mmmm Good!

Out in the garden many exciting things are happening, like broccoli, beans, and cucumbers.  Also today I harvested some basil for drying.  It dries in the microwave lickety-split. 
I also have rosemary, oregano, and thyme growing out there.  These are all things I use quite a bit of.

Today's garden helper is Spot. 

And, a little visitor to the cucumbers, only about the size of my thumbnail!

So, I need to get a few more things done before chore-time, so, until next-time, maybe tomorrow, I wish you well.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Garden Views

We are only days away from enjoying some beans, broccoli, and cucumbers... some of us enjoy them anyway! 

An updated view from the roof of the Summer Coop... thanks again Kevin! 
Kevin spent some of his valuable time working on the fence today.  Someday, the entire garden will be enclosed by this rustic picket fence.  Hopefully it will discourage hoofed visitors somewhat, although I may have to add a wire at the top.

Over by the field, Honeybees really enjoy milkweed blossoms!

A future pie in the making
Have a great week everyone!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hay and Garden

Thought I would put a couple of pictures out here while I wait for the water to heat up.  I am freezing sugar snap peas today and the water is to blanch them.  This is one of my favorite crops and a shocking amount of the peas do not make it any further than the distance from vine to my mouth.  I will also be canning some regular peas either later today or tomorrow... this cool weather has been good for something!  The sugar snap vines are over my head!
Lily is my garden helper today
Out in the coop, the chicks are growing fast.  One of the little ones has vanished... gone without a trace, so now there are eight for Lucy and Mama Red to take care of.  The older batch of chicks are starting to look more chicken-like.

More hay has been put up this week.  I really haven't had a hand it in at all, other than helping with the un-loading.  This last batch Rollie and Kurt baled up Friday afternoon.

So, that's about it for today I think.  I hope to have a few more garden pictures for you tomorrow.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Surprise in the Coop

Roye, who I have always had difficulty capturing with the camera, pauses on a post

Imagine my surprise to open up the chick room this morning and find Roye in there with the two mama hens and their little chicks.  She was down on her belly, head on the floor, and a chick was only three inches from her nose!  Apparently Roye had entered the room after the hens and chicks had gone to bed, and then gotten shut in by us before we retired for the night.

When we first had hens hatching chicks a couple of years ago, I worried about the cats when we let them go outside.  I soon learned that mama hens are fierce defenders of their young and there was nothing to fret about.

Roye is Captain of the Rodent Control Team here at Ole Lake.  No mouse, vole, shrew, or chipmunk is safe from her predations.  We haven’t had a bunny in the yard for years.  This useful characteristic helps us put up with some of her less agreeable traits (which I will not go into at this time).  She also has a fondness for birds, but fortunately, a healthy respect for adult chickens.  From her posture this morning, I would assume that she had been firmly put in her place.

One of the little chicks has died, so there are only nine now.  This loss cannot be attributed to Roye; I have been watching this little one for a while and it just hadn’t been growing like the others so I was expecting it to go.  
If you look close, you can see number nine peeking out from under Mama Red.  We decided on the name Lucy for the red hen.  I know, it's confusing that the black hen is Mama Red, but that's just the way it is. 

Meanwhile, we have hay down again.  We had a little rain last night, but Kevin is hopeful that we can still bale it later today.

Out in the garden, I’ll be picking peas today!  I visited the Isle Farmers’ Market yesterday, as I was there for the Mille Lacs Fun Run 5K with my good friend Kathy.  Much to my disappointment, the new potatoes were sold out, although I did score some green beans and cucumbers.  At home, I rooted around under some of the larger volunteer plants that are growing in the melon bed and was able to come up with enough spuds for our traditional “first pea meal” of the year, creamed peas and new potatoes… one of Kevin’s favorite things to eat.  I am also enjoying baby zucchini, sugar snap peas, swisschard, radishes, and arugula in my salad these days.  Things generally look good out there, although I would rather the weather were warmer so the tomatoes and melons would have a better chance of a good crop. 
Tasty little yellow zuchinnis
 So that is this week’s farm report!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Terrific Tuesday, the morning after

Hi folks, decided to do a quick post, and I do mean quick as I need to get out the door to work.  Had a great day off yesterday.  Ran a few miles, baked muffins and bread for the fair, took them to the fair entry day, visited my elders, worked in the garden, fit in some laundry, and when Kevin got home we unloaded hay.  Here are a few pictures of the day:
The first chicks are in that gangly-not-so-cute stage

The clematis at the garden entrance is just getting started to bloom... I call it the Ruby Jewell clematis

The hay waiting to be unloaded... see Lily there on the the tractor seat?

And the hay safely stored away in the shed, a job well done!
And finally, beautiful Huckleberry pauses for a moment for a photo op...

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Quiet Sunday Morning

Good Morning from Ole Lake!

After some rain in the night, the morning is quite dark still, so perhaps more coming. This morning seems to be telling us that some some quiet time after a busy day yesterday is just fine.

So yesterday morning I paid a visit to the Aitkin Farmers' Market , which I will again encourage all you locals to do.  There was a nice selection of early vegetables and even live music, although they don't do that every week.  I bought some really nice strawberries (mine are about done) and a loaf of very tasty dark rye bread.

Kevin got busy raking the hay that he had cut Thursday evening, and in the afternoon the cooperative efforts of Kevin, Kurt, and Kori (and the not so cooperative efforts of the baler) got it baled up and safely in the shed.  I don't think I have mentioned here that Kori moved to Brainerd recently, but she was here for part of the day and Kevin took advantage of her tractor driving skills.  She has a particular talent for picking up the hay on the corners which can be tricky.  I was busy in the garden and did not get out to record the event with the camera, but you get the idea.

I let the little chicks out for their first time out of doors.  The two moms lost no time showing them how to take a proper dust bath in the area that is dug up in front of the coop door.  These hens are such good parents!  This really seems to be a much better way to raise chicks then taking them out of a box and keeping them under a heat lamp.   The red hen doesn't have an official name, but under consideration are:  Ginger, Fiona, and Lucy.  Any other suggestions?
There's nothing like a good dust bath to ease the stress of motherhood, right?
Little chicks are so funny when they fall asleep standing up!

And that was the day.  Today will see some hay unloading, some baking (strawberry muffins in the oven right now!), gardening when the weather clears, and the usual farm chores.  First though, some relaxing.  I hope you all enjoy the day too.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

There are many activities going on in the area today, but we are choosing to be independent at home. 

News from the Coop:  As noted last weekend, the 2nd black hen’s hatch (we call her Mama Red now because she will be getting a red leg band ) did not go well.  In fact, one of the three chicks did not make it and she just had the two.  On Tuesday, the red hen’s clutch was due to begin hatching.  When I came home from work and went to check on her, here was the scene in the big room of the Winter Coop:  The red hen (I think she needs a name too, don’t you?) was on her nest, all puffed up.  The black hen, Mama Red was sitting on the bedding next to her nest, also all puffed up.  What I mean by that, for those of you who aren’t familiar with hen ways, is that all their feathers were standing on end, making them look twice their normal size.  So anyway, I lifted Mama Red up a little, and she has six chicks under her!  And I really couldn’t tell which were hers, and which ones had come over from the red hen.  Then I checked under the red hen, and there were more chicks under there!  The final count was eight for the red hen; a decent hatch.  These two hens and their little ones have moved over to the “chick room” of the Winter Coop where they are cooperatively rearing the little ones.  Mama Blue and her 6 gangly youngsters have moved to the big room so they can access the rear door to the coop-yard. 

The red hen and some of her eight chicks
Mama Blue and five of her six kids; it's hard to get them all in one frame!
News from the Field:  Kevin is a happier farmer now that some hay production is happening.  He cut on Tuesday evening east and south of the house. 
Cutting hay after work on Tuesday
Baling commenced yesterday afternoon after work.  Fortunately Kurt was off work for the long weekend to provide some muscle and Rollie, farm hand extraordinaire was on hand to contribute his years of experience.    Our John Deere baler, which has a history of cantankerousness, performed it’s duties with minimal issues.  While I went about the evening chores, Kevin’s laughter could be heard above the sound of the machinery, and it was a wonderful thing to hear after a trying workday.

Both of our hay wagons were filled with winter fodder which will be unloaded and stacked in the shed today.  Kevin cut part of the long field last night, so the process will be repeated tomorrow.
Hay production going smoothly (for a change!) 
News from the Goatyard:  Remember a couple of weeks ago, we were going to try putting the doelings back with their moms to see if they would still nurse?  Well, both doelings were interested in indulging at the milk bar.  Vinca was ok with it, Daisy was not.  So, Ivy and Chicorita were exiled back to the coopyard for a while.  Big change now though.  Ivy has gone home to live at Righteous Oaks Farm, where she will grow up to be a fabulous milker, and Chicky has joined Daisy and Vinca in their quarters. 

News from the Garden:  The peas are blooming!  OK, so we should be eating peas by now, but… it’s just that kind of year.  Things actually look pretty good out there considering how cool it has been.  Kori and I have enjoyed eating a few strawberries, and there is plenty of lettuce.  A few leaves of the Chinese cabbage add an earthiness to the salad; it’s pretty strong stuff.  I haven’t cooked any of it yet.  The Swiss chard is coming along and will be added to the salad bowl within a few days as will the zucchini. 
I think this lettuce is almost too pretty to eat!

Peas... Kevin's favorite veggie!

So, let’s get this long weekend started!

If you want to throw out a name suggestion for that red hen, use the comment feature below.