Wonky Top

One of our roosters is Wonky Top – named because of his ridiculously huge floppy comb.  He’s about 5 months old, so he has some growing to do – we are wondering if his comb will continue to get more hilarious as he matures.  I will need to coat his comb and wattles in Vaseline all winter to protect them from frostbite.  (I will need to do that with all three of my roosters, and maybe a couple of hens – larger combs don’t do well with our winters).

Here's our Wonky.
Here’s our Wonky.

He’s a little skittish with us.  If we need to pick him up for anything he is extremely hard to catch.  But he seems to be a decent rooster.  We still have all our boys separate from the hens for now, but we will be combining them before wintertime.  He is mostly nice to the hens, besides trying to mount them all the time – I have seen him protect the hens from the other two roosters before, and I’ve seen him do a bit of a dance up to different hens – maybe he’s attempting to woo them a little.

Another picture of Wonky.
Another picture of Wonky.

We’re pretty sure he’s a Golden Cuckoo Maran rooster.  Maran hens (at least a few different varieties) can lay dark brown, chocolate shelled eggs.  I am hoping that in breeding him with my non-Maran hens, he may pass some of those genes down to a future hen.  Otherwise I will eventually want to buy some Maran hens.  I would love to get some multicolored eggs (chocolate, blue, olive) – The hens we currently have lay varying degrees of browns, whites, and cream colored eggs.

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Artichokes & Tomatillos – in the U.P.

I have been growing Artichokes this year. I love artichokes – especially whole ones steamed/boiled with Italian dressing,  where you pull off the leaves and dip them in butter. Yum. I tried to grow them several years ago living in L.A., but with my work schedule they didn’t get watered enough and they didn’t do so well.  I’d read that they can grow as annuals in northern climates, so I planted 9 plants.  Two have produced fruit! (Actually a thistle, not a fruit). They are pretty small, but I’m still very excited.

Here's the nicest one of my two that I've gotten.
Here’s the nicest one of my two that I’ve gotten. You can see how small it is – my hands are not very big either.
Here's the second artichoke - it's a little skinny but still will be delicious.
Here’s the second artichoke – it’s a little skinny but still will be delicious.

I noticed that one of my plants is now growing another thistle off the stem where one of the above fruits was cut off.

I think one reason that only two of my nine plants produced fruit was that they ended up getting overcrowded by my nearby tomatillo plants.  The tomatillo plants are very large and leggy, almost growing like an indeterminant tomato plant.   My tomatillos got fruit this year also.  Last year I planted some  very late in the year, and didn’t get any fruits.  This year I got them in early and I have a decent sized crop – some of them are a little small, but they were ready to pick.  Here they are in a pot boiling up for Salsa Verde:

Tomatillos in a big soup pot - getting ready to be made into Salsa Verde.
Tomatillos in a big soup pot – getting ready to be made into Salsa Verde.

I will definitely be growing more artichokes next year (and giving them more space), and more tomatillos.

18 Chickens! and updates

We took three more roosters out this past weekend.  It was hard choosing who to keep and who to cull, but we finally made the decision and did what we had to do.  Now we still have three roosters left, and the plan is to keep them through the winter for breeding/protection purposes.  If they all make it through the winter, we’ll have to see how they get along in the spring.  For now, they all get to stay.  So we now have 18 chickens: 3 roosters and 15 hens.

Here are Splash and Wonky, two of the boys who got to stay with us.
Here are Splash and Wonky, two of the boys who got to stay with us.
Here is Dorko, the Dorking, with a photobomb from one of the brahma hens.
Here is Dorko, the Dorking, with a photobomb from one of the brahma hens.

We’ve had the hens and roosters separated for a few weeks. After removing the other 3 (older) roosters, we put these three back in with the hens, and things were mostly ok.  I really noticed an issue at night when putting them in the coop though: the boys tended to get the most feisty then, going for any hen they could get ahold of.  So for a couple nights we just put the roosters in their own room in the coop, and put them all together in the yard during the day.  For the last couple days we’ve just kept them separate all the time;  It was not as chaotic as it had been before, with all 6 roosters, but it was still kind of messy. My hens still are featherless on their backs. Some hens have had some of their feathers grow in, but not all of them.  Some of them are also molting now (why they molt right before it will be getting cold, I have no idea).  I think I may have to get some chicken sweaters for the winter.  That may enable me to put the boys and girls together as well – at least the hens won’t get damaged from the boys (or as damaged) if they have sweaters on.  We shall see.

A picture of some of my ladies at the fence.
A picture of some of my ladies at the fence.

My small black hen, who I have been thinking was a Sumatra, now has grown a huge comb.  Her ear flap things are white.  Which means she is most likely a Black Langshan, not a sumatra.  She has been flying up to the rafters of our coop lately, which is what I’ve expected she’d do – she likes to sit up there and watch the chaos as everyone else comes into the coop at night.  I would almost think she’s a rooster because of the comb, but the Black Langshan rooster that we did have matured extremely early.  Her comb is gigantic but not like his was.  She flew over to visit the boys today and they didn’t mess with her at all.  I don’t know if it’s because she’s just not sexually mature yet, or why else.

Here's my little langshan / not-sumatra hen.
Here’s my little langshan / not-sumatra hen.

An update on our broody hen:  She was sitting on 6 eggs that were due to start hatching last Thursday (that would have been day 21).  I got home, moved the hen to check on the eggs, and somehow that day they got coated with mud or chicken poop or something.  She may have had extremely dirty feet and turned the eggs and gotten them messy.  But they were very dirty.  I was torn about what to do, if anything.  I wanted to clean the eggs off, but I worried that in cleaning them I would remove the bloom from them, which could help bacteria pass into the eggs.  I tried wetting a paper towel and wiping a bit off just to see, but it was caked on there.  My husband said I should just let nature take its course, so that’s what I did.  She sat on those eggs faithfully, but we never heard any peeps or anything, and nobody hatched.  I took the eggs out on Saturday and tossed them.  I don’t know if they contained dead chicks,  but by that point I don’t think they would have hatched. It’s so late in the year also, that if they had hatched and the hen wasn’t a good mom I would have had to bring them inside and then I would have chickens in my house for most of the winter.  So it’s probably better that it didn’t happen now.  We are planning on making a brooder box out in the coop for next spring, so we don’t have chickens in the house again (except for very tiny babies for a day or two after hatching), but we haven’t built that yet.

A peek in the garden – Early September

We’ve been having some hot days lately, and last night we had a crazy thunderstorm.  This morning my yard is very wet – I had plans for some yardwork jobs, but it’s just too wet.  My garden is still going strong.  I’ve been getting some nice corn cobs, despite the early visit from some raccoons.

The garden, early September.
The garden, early September.

I had a few tomatoes fall off the vines while I was picking suckers, and my son also decided to pick a few that were starting to ripen.  I didn’t realize I grew an orange tomato, but I did grow a couple new varieties so I guess this one was orange.

We have these tomatoes in the window to ripen.
We have these tomatoes in the window to ripen.

I’m growing indeterminate varieties – I had been cutting off suckers and new flowers, but I got impatient.  We don’t have the longest growing season, and I don’t want a repeat of last year – because of frost warnings we had to pull all the tomatoes in so they could ripen inside (none started to ripen on the vine last year).  Luckily we’ve had a lot more heat this year.  I went at my tomato plants last week and cut off the tops of the plants, extra leaves that were shading the fruit, and any extra branches that didn’t have fruit on them. That has seemed to help speed things along.

My tomatoes waiting to ripen.
My tomatoes waiting to ripen. This is after I went to town trimming them.
Here is one that my son didn't pick!
Here is one that my son didn’t pick! This one looks like it will be red (the picture makes it look orange).

I also have a bunch of tomatillos – they are still small, but they are getting there. Last year I grew some but I added them really late, and they didn’t start forming fruit till mid September. These ones have been growing for about a month now.

Tomatillos.  I have lots of hummingbirds that like these flowers as well, so they are helping to pollinate them.
Tomatillos. I have lots of hummingbirds that like these flowers as well, so they are helping to pollinate them.

I am attempting artichokes this year – I read that they can be grown as an annual.  I haven’t seen any sign of any fruit, and really didn’t know what to expect. This morning I found this:

A tiny artichoke!
A tiny artichoke!

I looked on another plant and have at least one other one forming as well.  Very exciting, even if they are very tiny.

Another tiny artichoke.
Another tiny artichoke.

I’m growing Evening Primrose this year, I didn’t realize they’d take so long to bloom.  They started this week:

My evening Primrose.
My evening Primrose.

Here are some marigolds that I planted, they are doing extremely well, but they are really easy to grow:

Marigolds.
Marigolds.

My sunflowers are going strong. The bees and hummingbirds are enjoying them now.  They should start going to seed soon, and then we’ll have the chickadees and other birds, and chipmunks and squirrels, eating them.

My sunflowers - some are about 8-9 feet tall now.
My sunflowers – some are about 8-9 feet tall now.

Harvesting and Freezing

I’ve gotten a lot of vegetables so far this year.  I’m still waiting on my tomatoes to ripen, but they are coming along. I’ve been picking suckers and new flowers left and right, and I can see the tomatoes are starting to get a pinkish tint to them.  We’ve had 80-90 degree temps this week, and it’s expected to continue – I think that will help with the ripening.

In the winter we were buying a lot of kale, so I grew a bunch of it, and we haven’t used a whole lot yet.  So this weekend I decided to pick as much as I could, and freeze it.  I left the plants, with new baby leaves in the centers, so I will still have fresh kale until we have snow (it supposedly can survive frost, and gets better after a frost, so we’ll see how that goes).   I ended up with a giant basket of kale:

My big basket of kale.  This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That's a whole lot of kale.
My big basket of kale. This basket is about 2 feet long, 1 foot wide, and just under a foot tall. That’s a whole lot of kale.

I took the leaves off the stems, blanched them for 2 minutes, and then froze them up.  I ended up with about 10 cups of frozen kale.

This year I decided to grow lemon balm.  I picked some to dry for tea.  It smells so good!

Lemon balm.
Lemon balm.

I have had tons of zucchini and yellow squash, and I have frozen a lot of it.  I read online that you can get away with not blanching it first, so I am trying that this year.  Last year I blanched it, and it worked fine but it was more labor intensive;  Also, since it was wet when I put it in freezer bags, I ended up with blocks of frozen zucchini.  I don’t know if the slice/freeze method will still produce this result; I’ll have to wait and see.

I also grew acorn squash for the first time this year.  I had four plants; most produced only one fruit – I did have two forming on one plant, but when I went out this weekend I realized that one of the fruits was rotting on the vine.  The other four seemed ready to pick.  The plants still have flowers so it may produce more, I will have to wait and find out.

Acorn squash.  Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.
Acorn squash. Yum! We love eating them roasted with cinnamon sugar and butter.

My corn is getting close to being ready.  The silks are turning brown on the cobs. Last year I read that you wait 10 days after the silks turn brown – I checked a few cobs and I think by this next weekend they may be ready.  I noticed today though that I must have raccoons or something attacking the corn.   It must be raccoons – they are notorious for getting into corn in this area – I found a half eaten cob in my garden on the ground. I hope they give me time to get at least a few ears before they get them all. I’m not sure how to deter them – they climbed my fence.   I’ll have to figure out some kind of raccoon deterrent – maybe putting a lip on the top of the fence so they can’t come over the top of the fence.