Winter Gets the Last Laugh…But We are Not Amused!

We had lots of warning that a terrible cold blast was coming to our area last week and that temps would dip into the teens, threatening to reverse all the early spring progress that had already begun on the farm. We spent last Friday attempting to protect as much of the beautifully flowering and budding orchard trees and bushes as possible. The peaches and nectarines were in full bloom and a couple of the pear trees were just pushing out with tender buds. IMG_2608.JPGSo we thought if we could cover as many branches as possible with large plastic bags, that we might save some of the future fruit. By the time we were done the orchard looked like lollipop bouquets.IMG_2604.JPGUNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17f41.jpgThe strawberries were a bit easier to cover since we unfurled plastic sheeting and staple gunned it to the raised beds. IMG_2599.JPGThe blueberries were not quite as worrisome since only one of the varieties (the earliest of the five) was pushing out their buds so we covered that one row as best we could. IMG_2596.JPGWe think we could have survived a day or two of this but in the end, we had nearly a week of frightful weather, including one morning this week when we woke up to 16 degrees. If only the wet, heavy snow had preceded the cold spell, it would have served as an insulator.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17f55There is not a lot to do at this point except to wait and see just how much damage occurred. This dire weather pattern should be in the rear view mirror soon but we plan to keep the covers on the plants for a couple more iffy nights.

It is still a very busy time around here. We had our annual orchard check up and pruning with our arborist/horticulturist, Jon Lanaghan. IMG_2484.JPGThis year he knew to bring equipment appropriate for trimming the taller trees. IMG_2498.jpgThis was before the recent cold snap but was still a fairly miserable day to spend outside for hours trimming trees!IMG_2510.JPGIt might look like Jon was doing all the work but Dave takes notes in his extensive record book which has the history of each tree, its root stock, origin and age. I was in charge of supplying Jon with the bleach jar into which he dips his cutters before moving from tree to tree. I also constantly pump him for information as we go along and even tho I’ve heard some of it more than once, it always sinks in a bit deeper each year depending on just how much my teeth are chattering as a distraction!

Dave continues to work on the never ending fence project as we prepare for the official new North and South deer fencing to be installed. He makes me nervous using the chain saw so much. He takes out the tops as much as he can…UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17f71.jpgAnd then employs the might of the tractor to pull the stumps. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17f24.jpgThe Egg Subscription project has been very fun. As promised, I worked on producing a book that has basic chicken information as well as recipes. Thanks to Sue for providing several interesting recipes. Here is the cover page picturing our 6 breeds. wqqQMeA1Rme2eMq1TSQBxg_thumb_17f70.jpgWe have had several issues of late in the coop that have caused me pause. First, I found a bit of cannibalization in that there was evidence in one of the nest boxes of an egg having been laid and then subsequently eaten with only the wet spot of left over yolk and some shell to show for it. Ugh! I was not pleased to see this since when chickens start to eat their own eggs it can get out of hand and they enjoy them before we can collect them! Of course I immediately eliminated all trace of this and was keen to not allow eggs to sit in their nests very long after this. So far, this behavior has not continued but it made me think twice about feeding them their own shells. Instead, I collect them and have been adding them to the compost.IMG_2648.JPGAlso, we had the egg-citement of a very, very small egg being laid last week which I discovered in the outdoor run. I suspect it to be from a Cinnamon Queen. I showed it around to the subscribers last week and promised the kids who come to collect their weekly eggs that I will dissect it with them tomorrow so that we can see what is actually inside…does it have a yolk or is it just filled with egg white? Oddly enough, it doesn’t sit still on the paper towel for a photo…it swivels a bit as if it is either heavy on one side or magnetized! Hrmph!  Here it is next to a normal sized egg…I will report the outcome of the biopsy next time! IMG_2647.JPGMORE CHICKEN NEWS!….this just in today. When I went out to the early morning clean and feed session in the coop I found that Buttercup, one of our Easter Eggers, had a broken beak. UGH! She seems to have a long list of challenges. I’m not quite sure these issues arise because she is a target from others or whether some of her problems are self inflicted due to her own anxieties. In this case, I think she may have just gotten her beak chipped in a frenzy when the chicks react to sudden noise or action that causes them to panic and frantically flee in all directions. IMG_2646.jpgPoor girl! So what does a broken beak mean for a chicken? First of all, you need to understand that a chicken uses its beak for gathering food and exploring their environment such as preening and nesting.  Their beak grows much like our fingernails but slower. In a natural setting their beak will wear down thru use just about as fast as it grows. The farther back from the tip, the more the beak is supplied with nerve endings and blood. Hard to find a good graphic for this but I doubt you need the scientific names to convince you of the details.

nerves in beak

This injury seems to be fairly superficial but I will watch to make sure it doesn’t inhibit her from eating or drinking. My reading says this may repair itself in the next 6 weeks or so.

A highlight of our egg story happened recently when Kate and an old friend from grade school, Mandy, reconnected after 20 plus years. The two young families had dinner recently and I sent over a little box of eggs as a hello from the farm. Mandy subsequently sent Kate a photo of the project she created using the farm eggs…IMG_2609.JPGWow! This is the art of Pysanka, a Ukrainian egg decorating technique which is not unlike Batik, using wax and dye to create colorful designs on the shells. Mandy says this was her first experience using a brown egg for this technique but we all think it turned out rather well! I can’t wait to get Mandy to share more info on this when she gets time.

Wishing I had more time in the day but I did manage to provide the Artery with a new product recently. The owner, Kim, has been the recipient of my home made granola for years and calls it the Crack Cocaine of snack foods. I sent over the first 5 jars last week and she sold out immediately! I have since sent over another 6 jars for sale in addition to more pickles and jams!IMG_2514.JPGCoulter has kept us active all spring with visits to the local parks. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17ebe.jpgHe was oh so happy recently to find that the zoo train is now back in action!UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_17f14.jpgFinally, a shout out to our neighbor, Luis, who celebrated his 89th birthday on Wednesday. We delivered a small carton of eggs, much to his delight!


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