Double the Trouble

We have doubled our flock (plus one) – We already had 16 adults, and we just hatched 18 chicks – we sadly lost one chick today so we are at 17.  We had about a 69% hatch rate (from 26 after candling). All the chicks remaining are healthy and alert, and running around in their box.  Here are some pictures of our new additions:

chicks 2
The chicks in their brooder box.
chicks
More chicks in the brooder – we are using a chick heater platform that I borrowed from a friend, instead of a heat lamp – it works really nicely. I may need to buy one for the future. The chicks huddle underneath and it doesn’t get too hot so it can’t cause a fire.

A few years ago I did individual chick pictures – at a day or two, then progression pics as they aged. I was thinking I would do that this time, but then I went to do photos and realized that may be too difficult – it’s hard to tell everyone apart and there are just too many.  I decided to do groups of colors instead, with a few individual pics of chicks with distinctive markings.  See below:

blondes
Here are the blondes and strawberry blondes. I think some chicks may have some buff Orpington in them – otherwise no idea.
tiny penguins
Here are the penguins: The black / gray / really dark brown chicks. Most of these are black with white (hence penguins) but there is one that is a light blondie-gray – maybe they’ll have some kind of splash / blue coloring when they mature – we’ll have to wait and find out.
brunettes
Here are the reds and browns. There are some partridge Chanteclers and possibly Russian Orloff mixed ones.
eyeliner
This little chick has a brown mark on her head and a bit of cat-eye eyeliner. And 5 toes.
orange head
This blondie has orange on her head.
new hairy
Here is one of the gray ones – this is the only feathered leg chick we have.
grey
Here is the blue / splash colored chick – I had a splash once that was yellow with dingy gray – this is gray with dingy yellow – so we’ll see how this one turns out.

It’s very exciting. I hope they are mostly girls, but we’ll have to wait to find out.

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Early Arrivals

I have eggs in the incubator, due to hatch this Saturday. I started with 32 eggs; when I candled at 10 days I took six eggs out, leaving 26 in the incubator.  Last night I went to take them out of the automatic egg turner, because you are supposed to remove that about 3 days before hatching, so that the chicks can orient themselves for hatching, and because the turner could hurt them if they hatched in it.

incubator eggs
Here they are after taking them out of the automatic turner. I tried to put them in groups based on where the eggs came from. They are marked as well so I can keep track of which eggs hatched.

As I was moving the eggs, I heard “Cheep Cheep!” I thought that was a little early, but I was excited to hear that at least someone was on their way.

This morning, I heard a really loud peep from the next room, and went to check. I found a chick had hatched! On day 19! Here is a really bad picture (the flash went off and shined on the top of the incubator):

new hatchee
Here was the chick that I found this morning

I’ve never had chicks hatch early – I’ve only hatched chicks a few times, and it’s been awhile, but I didn’t realize they could come that early.  I came home and found that the one had brought a friend; we now have two chicks. They are both comfortable in the brooder, waiting for more friends to arrive.

penguin
Here is one – a little penguin-looking chick.
redhead
Here is one that is a little red and brown. I believe this is the first one that hatched this morning.

I haven’t heard any other pips yet, but they aren’t actually due for two more days. So we’ll see what happens. I’m glad that two hatched so the chicks aren’t lonely. There are still 24 eggs in the incubator, so we should get some more soon.

A Nice Day in April…

Today was a beautiful day. We had temps in at least the 50s, and it was sunny. The snow is melting, and I planted a new bed full of perennial vegetables. Here are some pictures from this nice spring day:

snow yard 1
Here you can see our yard is on it’s way to being snow-free. It’s taking awhile. This picture is taken from outside of our dog fence, near the garage. On the left you can kind of see my garden, which is still half covered. The garlic bed started to peak out of the snow today, and that was the deepest part of the snow in the actual garden.
snow yard 2
Here is the house with some snow around it – we have a metal roof so the snow falls around the house and those snowbanks always take longer to melt.
chicken path
Here is our chicken-coop path currently. It’s a low, muddy mess. Luckily we have muck boots to wear when we go to the chicken coop. The ducks love this area – they dabble their bills in the puddles when they pass though. (When the snow is all melted and the ground dries out, the “path” actually disappears, but it’s been a pathway for the last several months).
new bed
Here is a new bed I’m creating near the garage for some perennial flowers and vegetables – I originally planned for just sunchokes and crosnes in this area but I think I will put some milkweeds and gogi berries as well since there is enough room. This is a good spot in case the sunchokes go a little invasive, as I’ve heard they can. This area is out of the way, just grassy, and it could use some nice flowers – sunchokes are supposed to have yellow flowers and be nice and tall. I set this up last weekend, and I thought I would have a week or so for the plastic to kill the grass, but I did not; the sunchokes and crosnes arrived sooner than I thought they would.
sunchokes
Here are the sunchokes – they arrived the other day. I got two kinds, a red (on the left) and white fuseau, on the right. I got three tubers of each kind.
crosnes
Here are Crosnes (aka Chinese Artichokes). These are pretty small but they are supposed to be delicious, and a very easy to grow perennial. I read that you should cut the plants before they flower in order to get tubers of decent size though, so I plan on doing that. I ordered 6 tubers – I think I actually received 8 but some were very small.
planted bed
Here is the sunchoke and crosnes portion of the bed planted. I left the rest of the bed with the plastic on it so it can continue to cook in the sun for awhile. I laid fencing over the bed to keep chickens out – it’s very sandy and they would love to make this into a dust bath area. I will fence it soon and then will be able to take this cover off.
moss
I went wandering the woods and yard a bit today – I found some moss that had greened up already – here is a bug’s eye view of the moss.
white crocus
We have crocuses blooming! Here are some white flowers.
crocus
Here are some purple crocus. We have daffodil leaves emerging too.

Maple Syrup, and new friends on the way

We made maple syrup this year.  We started collecting at the end of March, when we still had a bunch of snow. We ended our collection after a couple of weeks because we had run out of room in our freezer and fridge for gallon jugs of sap.  The snow had been melting but then this last Thursday we got hit by the end of the Bomb-Cyclone storm that came up through the middle of the country – we only got 5 inches of snow here at the house though, but it made it look like winter again.  Below are some pictures from before that snow hit us.

trees tapped
Here are some of the trees tapped this year. We only tapped three right at the edge of the yard, because there was a foot of snow around the trees when we first started. We collected sap for about 2 weeks. This picture was from right at the end of that time.
wizard
Here is our cat Wizard, venturing outside on a nice day last week.

I planned on cooking the sap outside this year. I bought a big steam-table pan (I just searched for “maple syrup pan” on amazon) that would hold 22 quarts. We have a firepit already set up that I was going to set the pan over to cook the sap on; but then the day I planned on cooking everything up, it was pouring rain.  I ended up just doing it on the stove using two big canning pots. It took a full day on Sunday and then the evening Monday after work, but it is now complete.

sap on the stove
Sap on the stove.
sap
A close up of the maple sap steam.
syrup
Syrup! We got 6 pint jars.

I also have some exciting news about chickens! Last April we got Bertram, our Russian Orloff rooster, from an ad on Craigslist. I was planning on ordering some chicks this year, but then I was contacted on Facebook by the lady I got Bertram from – she found me through this blog. She asked if I was interested in trading hatching eggs, since she still has another Russian Orloff and then we both get chicks from these roosters.  So we traded eggs – I saved pretty much all our eggs for a week, and gave her 1.5 dozen, and saved 11 for us. I received a dozen from her chickens, as well as nine eggs for Partridge Chanteclers that she got from another lady. So I have 32 eggs in the incubator, they started on 4/6.  I’m possibly going to end up with way too many chickens, but I didn’t want to waste any of the eggs I’d saved, or the ones I had gotten either.  I looked at the 3 previous hatches I did with this incubator in 2016, and we usually get about a 50% hatch rate from the original set put in – typically I candle and end up taking out about 25%, and then at the end another 25% don’t make it, so I’m figuring that is about what we’ll end up with – approximately 15 or 16. We’ll have to figure out what to do with any extra roosters, but I’ll worry about that later this summer.   We do need more hens since mine are becoming slackers – the youngest of my hens are 3 years old, from our 2016 hatches. From 16 hens currently, we are getting about 5 eggs per day if we are lucky.   I am excited for new chicken friends – Fingers crossed we don’t get mostly roosters.

incubator 4.6
Here are the new chicks on the way! We have 32 eggs in here – I expect after candling we’ll have 20-25, maybe. I will candle the eggs this coming week (after 10 days in the incubator). The left 2 columns are Partridge Chanteclers, the middle two columns are mixed eggs from Bertram’s old home, and the 2 right columns are from my hens.

Our ducks are excited that it is finally spring – they’ve been searching for snow-melt puddles:

ducks in a puddle
Our ducks wandered to the puddle at the edge of our property last week – you can kind of see them in the middle of this picture here – (the houses are our neighbors behind us). This area is low and it tends to fill up in spring. The ducks love it.
ducks in woods 2
Here they are heading back through the woods to the coop. They didn’t like that I came to take their picture.

Seed Starting 2019

Spring is officially here, even though we still have a lot of snow outside. It’s melting though and our temperatures are getting warmer. The trees are producing sap and getting ready to bud. I did see a couple of daffodil leaves emerging near a tree the other day, so things are coming along nicely. I have been garden planning, ordering and starting more seeds, and getting ready for this year’s garden.

seeds
Here are some of the new seeds from this year.

I had some seeds from last year but I had run out of a few things, and wanted to try some new vegetables and new varieties of old favorites.  I had run out of peas, so I got a new variety of those. I’m growing some dry beans this year – a variety of chickpeas and a Jade bean variety. I am going to try growing some quinoa. I also am attempting peanuts – I had given up hope of ever growing them since they are traditionally a southern heat-loving crop, but I read an article (I think in Grit magazine) by a lady who owns Fruition Seeds in New York State – she has peanuts (for sale) that she received from a person who developed them to grow right here in the U.P!  So I immediately went to their website and ordered some. Fruition has a lot of seeds for this type of climate  – the U.P. has similar climate to a lot of the rest of the northeastern U.S.  The original article I read was actually about growing things for your specific climate, and about finding seed sources for your specific climate.

seed tapes
Seed tapes with carrot seeds. I have 4 varieties of carrots. One is actually a “rainbow mix,” though. I’m giving them their own spot this year in the double-dug bed garden. Last year they shared a bed with the beets, who are also getting their own spot this year.

I’ve been starting a few things – if you read my last post I had started onions in February. This past weekend I started my “April start” crops: Tomatoes and peppers, along with a few others. I also started some shallots – I was originally going to order starts for those but ended up ordering some seeds from Baker Creek seeds. I got a lot of really good seeds from them this year. They seemed a little pricey (which is why I hadn’t ordered from them in past years) but they have a lot of varieties of different things, and they are all Heirloom seeds. So far my sprout rate is awesome from their seeds. I ordered from Seeds N Such last year, because they had great prices, but I had a lower seed sprout rate, and a few things didn’t grow true to what they said they were (for one example, I had a cantaloupe that was more of a honeydew). Plus their seed packets were too general – for example, they’d have a name for the specific type, but the directions would be for “tomatoes, peppers and other nightshades…” on the back, not for that specific type of tomato, or pepper, or whatever.  I did a small order of seeds from Baker Creek this year at first – they came within a week, and the onions and gogi berries all sprouted within a few days. Their seed packets are really big and colorful, have directions/info for the specific thing you are growing, and they actually send you free seeds as well with each order. I got a free pack of free tomato seeds when I ordered my first 3 packets. I placed two more orders (I broke my seed order into two from them, since I ordered a lot this year) and I got some free carrots and other tomatoes, and basil as well.  That’s a nice bonus.

new seed starts
Here are the newly planted seeds for tomatoes and peppers on the left, shallots (in the blue containers), green onions (in the bottom right), and cauliflower (top right). I used toilet paper tubes this year as little seed pots. So far that is working well. This picture is from right after I planted them on Sunday or Monday.
seeds start 2
Here they are today – this is almost a week later.

As you can see, I’m growing a lot of different onions this year. I have pretty much two whole spots in my double-dug garden set aside for them on my garden plan – there is still a foot or so of snow on the actual garden, so I’m waiting for it to melt before I can assess everything and clean stuff up.

onions
Here you can see the onions from before are doing well. just waiting for their spot in the garden. Right now it still has about a foot or so of snow on it. These seem crowded but they are doing well so I will leave them as is. If they seem stressed I’ll start pulling some or repot them in a bigger container to spread out before transplanting outside.

I am going to try some perennial vegetables – sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) and crosnes (also called Chinese artichokes) – these are both root crops that are supposed to be relatively easy to grow and/or become a little invasive. I picked a spot near the garage that gets a lot of sun, good drainage, and just has been tall grass for these. They both are supposed to have nice flowers, and they will have plenty of space in case they do become invasive.  I ordered tubers for these from a company called Norton Naturals out of Canada – they don’t ship till sometime in later April.  In researching perennial vegetables I came across Walking Onions, which supposedly “walk” around your garden (their shoots touch the ground and grow roots) – you shouldn’t need to replant them to get onions. I think I’m going to wait until next year to get some of these though, but it’s an idea for later.  I started looking into Perennial vegetables because it would be nice to have a bed or two of things we don’t have to replant each year.

gogi
Here are some of the Gogi berry bushes re-potted. I ended up with about 12 plants. They are still very small.
ginger
Here I am attempting to sprout Ginger. Fruition Seeds had a bunch of good info and they are selling rhizomes and fertilizer for these. I have 4 rhizomes in this tray. (It looks really dry here, I think I had just put them in).

I am going to attempt to grow Ginger as well – as you can see in the pic above I have some in a tray over a heat mat set to sprout soon; I think I’m going to grow them in bags like we do potatoes, only sideways. Ginger spreads outward instead of up – so you hill it like potatoes but very lightly (like an inch of soil or so at a time) and it will spread its rhizomes outward.  I have a good spot in our back yard that I think will give them the heat and sun they want.

I’m planning on doing potatoes in bags again this year – we had an excellent crop last year (as long as the bags are protected from the chickens, they do fantastic in them).

birdie
Here is a little bird, I’m not sure what kind. He (she?) was visiting our feeder and flew into the window. I heard the thud, went outside and found him knocked out on the porch. He sat in my hand for a few minutes and then flew off.

Spring seems to be finally in full swing. We are tapping trees for sap and planning for new chicks soon, along with all the garden plans.  Now that more is going on farm-wise, I am planning on giving you readers updates more often.