It's been so long since I have written that everything is bigger, bushier, and bolder than it once was.
The chicks were small enough to hold as many as three at a time, covered in down, and uttering the quietest of peeps.
About two weeks ago, they started to show an awareness of the world outside their nursery. Some tried jumping up onto the edge of their pen, others pecked at the plastic walls and peered out at us while we cleaned their water and feed containers. Feathers started to appear on their tails and then their wings.
Their peeping got a little louder, and they played a curious game with one another - choosing a particular wood shaving and then chasing whoever had it around the pen until it was dropped or grabbed.
Now their peeping is louder and only the smallest buckeye chicks play the wood chip tag.
The (black) Dominiques - all female - now spend much of their time up on the roost. They grow a little quicker and have likely become a little less frivolous.
In a few days the entire flock will be transferred to their new home - the A-frame shed out in the field.
This building housed chickens at some point in the past. Over the past week, I have sterilized the interior, moved in some of the equipment purchased and or cleaned back in the spring, and run a water line up to the shed.
A few small details still need to be seen to before it is ready. According to some of the literature left by the previous owners, chickens like to have multiple roosts to choose from.
Over the summer, I hope to re shingle the roof, install a sink, and insulate the shed for the winter.
By the time I get around to this, the chicks will be grown up and moved once again to a hutch to roost and brood in and a six hundred square foot outdoor enclosure.
Our plan is to overwinter the Dominique hens and one of the Buckeye males in the A-frame.
As for the rest of the Buckeyes? This breed is known for it's large thighs...
By breakfast time the next day, most have figured out that their is even more to the world outside of their enclosure and try leaving as we enter the pen to refill water and feed troughs.
This past week, I completed several of these tasks. It feels great to hammer the final nail, click on the last line of electric fence, sow the second of two seed potato successions.
What they lacked was more space to roam. Whilst they set about exploring their new surroundings and getting used to the new routine, I put the finishing touches on the rest of their field. This electric system is larger and a little more complex than what I have used in the past, so it naturally took longer and required more trouble shooting.
The new fence charger demands a little more respect from me as well.
Finally, I was able to get the last section of line working satisfactorily and the extra layer of training fencing came down. I spent about half an hour trying to coax the two gilts to cross into the newly opened up pasture, but they were still too spooked by where the fence used to be to cross into an area of rich grass and herbaceous plants.
When I checked on them in the evening (with their snack of treats), I saw they had made their first forays into the new pasture.
The yard of the house is now fenced (though a gate and a few other details still need to be built or installed). An additional line has been run around the hives as a second line of defense.
The page fencing and electric lines are augmented with some metallic rattles to further dissuade bears.
After the first flush of spring flowers and blooming trees, a period of time follows with relatively little flowering - a period of time known to beekeepers as the "dearth".
The previous owners (also bee keepers) have planted some perennials that have a delayed bloom time, such as poppies and comfrey.
The nearby pasture and meadows have plenty of late bloomers as well: devil's paintbrush, daisy's, and buttercups.
Each hive is supplied with a jar of sugar water. This allows the bees to get a quick supply of food while they map out the area.
While all this is going on in Lanark, the farm in Stittsville is growing the produce.
Astro arugula, the variety we have been growing since 2011.
There are two other types I will be planting this season. I trialed Surrey variety last year and found it better tasting though a little slower growing. Out of curiosity, I am trialing Esmee variety arugula this year.
There are two schools of thought as to how to treat young seedlings. One is to protect as much as possible, to allow the plants a head start before being exposed to all of the stresses they will encounter from weather and insects.
The other approach is to expose the plants to everything they will experience right away, on the assumption that this will make the plants stronger - kind of like teaching to swim by tossing into the deep end.
One way to interplant...in the bed on the right, zinnias are placed between squash plants. The zinnias grow up while the squash grows outward. This is an experiment I have tried for the first time this season.
To the left of the squash and zinnias are a bed of romano beans and amaranth. When the Amaranth is finished, the next succession of romano beans will be planted. As the first succession of romanos finish, another round of amaranth or some other leaf will be planted.
So many seedlings were lost this spring in the nursery due to damping off. I suspect I ran the temperature too low. The first lettuces were some of the casualties.
The next successions of lettuces are on the way...greenleafs, mini red romaines, and reen romaines.
The leaves with yellowed tips are the oldest leaves on the plants.
At the start of the season, I try to encourage the bulbs to sprout their first leaves by pulling the straw off during the day and putting it back on at night. The third or fourth time I did this, the first leaves had already started to emerge.
If they had emerged by growing through the straw, the leaves would have had time to adapt to the increasing amount of sunlight.
Instead, the first pale leaves were abruptly exposed to the full sunlight and received a sunburn. Those leaves carry the memory of that experience, indicated by the yellowed tips.
Usually, the scapes are a few inches longer by now, and ready for scape harvest by the first week of July. Based on what I am observing here, I am anticipating another week or so later than usual.
The drawback is more shade for the plants at the edge of the bed, which I suspect is why the two outermost rows are producing smaller spinach plants.
The first day I had time to mow, the draw cord on the mower snapped. Despite being the first time I have replaced a broken draw cord, this was easy enough to fix until I got to re-installing the spring...
The next post will be in the mushroom nursery...beyond the boundary of our farm...beyond where the little cars can drive...