Here's the first momma to go broody. See that blank stare?
(Reminds me a little of me when I was pregnant.)
Here's mother #2. It's kind of interesting. Barred rocks aren't known for going broody.
(How's that for a scary mother face. Hen: "get away from my babies!")
Sisters in waiting.
(See the two eggs kicked out from under the barred rock on the right? I'm guessing they aren't viable. Somehow the hens just know when there are no live babies in some of the eggs and kick them away from the nest. I've cracked these eggs in the past to find just a slimy yolk....no baby. I'll pull these out and dispose of them. If nothing else, if they have gotten cold, they will not be viable anyway.)
We have a new hen who's decided she wants to be a mother!
It's one of the Buff Orpingtons and this is partially the reasons we picked this breed of chicken. Not only are they pretty fair at winter laying but they are well known for going broody. Many egg production businesses will shy away from the Buffs, but we like them for this reason. I actually purchased 4 Buff chicks last spring, but through attrition (IE. hawks, owls, neighbor dogs....) we only have 2 left. But two is enough!
She has 12 eggs under her and though 12 is a pretty big task, she seems up for the job. She has been diligent in her mission so far. Our hatch out rate over the years has been about half so hopefully she will produce 6 sweet little puff balls to augment our flock. Last year all of the chicks that hatched were roos, no hens.....kind of weird. I gave all of them away to other small flock owners who are trying to hatch out babies, too. All but one. He is still with us as a back up roo. Our wonderful red, grand- rooster is getting on in age. He's a great protector but I'm not sure how viable he is as a sire. So we keep a back up guy to ensure all the hens are "covered" for fertility. He's not as pretty as the big red roo, but he gets the job done.
WATCH COUNTY NOTIFICATION FOR WATCH 499 NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MISSOULA MT 310 PM MDT FRI JUL 20 2012 MTC029-047-063-210300- /O.EXA.KMSO.SV.A.0499.000000T0000Z-120721T0300Z/ THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE HAS EXTENDED SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WATCH 499 TO INCLUDE THE FOLLOWING AREAS UNTIL 9 PM MDT THIS EVENING IN MONTANA THIS WATCH INCLUDES 3 COUNTIES IN NORTHWEST MONTANA FLATHEAD LAKE IN WEST CENTRAL MONTANA MISSOULA THIS INCLUDES THE CITIES OF...COLUMBIA FALLS...EVERGREEN... KALISPELL...MISSOULA...PABLO...POLSON...RONAN AND WHITEFISH.
FLOOD WATCH NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MISSOULA MT 504 AM MDT FRI JUL 20 2012 MTC029-053-061-089-202100- /O.CON.KMSO.FF.A.0004.120720T1800Z-120721T0600Z/ FLATHEAD-LINCOLN-MINERAL-SANDERS- 504 AM MDT FRI JUL 20 2012 ...FLASH FLOOD WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM NOON MDT TODAY THROUGH THIS EVENING... THE FLASH FLOOD WATCH CONTINUES FOR * PORTIONS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA AND WEST CENTRAL MONTANA... INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING COUNTIES...IN NORTHWEST MONTANA... FLATHEAD...LINCOLN AND SANDERS. IN WEST CENTRAL MONTANA... MINERAL. * FROM NOON MDT TODAY THROUGH THIS EVENING * THUNDERSTORMS WILL BE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING RAINFALL RATES OF 2 INCHES PER HOUR. * ROADS MAY BECOME INUNDATED WITH SUDDEN RAINFALL...WHILE ROCK AND MUDSLIDES ARE POSSIBLE ACROSS HIGHWAY EMBANKMENTS. OF PARTICULAR CONCERN...GOING TO THE SUN ROAD IN GLACIER PARK MAY BECOME HAZARDOUS ONCE AGAIN FOLLOWING ADDITIONAL RAINFALL. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A FLASH FLOOD WATCH MEANS THAT CONDITIONS MAY DEVELOP THAT LEAD TO FLASH FLOODING. FLASH FLOODING IS A VERY DANGEROUS SITUATION. YOU SHOULD MONITOR LATER FORECASTS AND BE PREPARED TO TAKE ACTION SHOULD FLASH FLOOD WARNINGS BE ISSUED.
Hmmm. Guess I'd better turn off the sprinkler. It looks like we are in for a big one. And with the drought that seems to be plaguing most of the rest of the country....I'm not complaining one bit.
So here are a few pictures of the corn. The first shows "Cascade", the corn developed by Carol Deppe from Oregon. As you can (barely) see by this picture, most of the stalks are well over 12 inches tall. This is pretty amazing since I planted the seed in cool, damp conditions....just the type of weather corn doesn't really like. I can't wait to see the results. It's supposed to have the ability to produce "sister lines" of corn which may allow for both grinding and parching depending on the color of the kernels on the cob: red ears make good parching corn. and a sweet flour for breads and cakes. Brown ears make for good savory breads and a "wonderful brown gravy". Ivory and creamy yellow ears make a flavourful flour for sweet breads like pancakes but aren't great for parching. These are all notations from Carol's book. I have yet to experience all the nuances of growing anything other than sweet corn for fresh eating (bleck). So I'm excited for the corn harvest this year.
Here's a pic of Painted Mountain, the "Montana" corn develped by a very dedicated man here in the mountains. As you can see, it doesn't have quite the kick of Cascade, but at a little over 12 inches after 6 weeks, it's still making a show. My animals love this corn so even if I can't produce anything humaly edible from these kernals, at least I know my chickens will be sustained. Plus, I saved this seed from last year. So I KNOW I can reproduce this food. Yeay!
This Supai Red parching corn is making a weaker showing at just 12 inches tall after 6 weeks. This corn hasn't shown the spark of the other two, so if the hype of this parching corn isn't reproducable then it might not have a furture place in our garden. Good gardening space is just too precious to waste on an iffy product. The harvest will tell the story.
Lastly, this Mandan is struggling at barely 10 inches after 6 weeks. The germination was weak and continues to be frail in it's growing pattern. If the Cascade continues to perform well, it will provide the flour we will need in future gardens and this flour type corn might have to be relegated to more temperate areas of the country.
The sweet corn from Burpee that was supposed to be a short season corn didn't even spout (darn the luck!) So I won't be buying that type of seed again.
Well, that's it for the corn update. More to come as time rolls on! (Sorry for the poor picture quailty. It was about 10:30 at night when I took these and the light was failing.)
I'm sitting here at the computer writing and trying to cool off. It's been a scorcher at 92 degrees. I know for those of you in the south, 92 is just another July afternoon. But here in the north west, 92 degrees is pretty hot. We see temps in the 90's every summer, just not this early. Plus, we don' have air conditioner.......hardly anyone here has air conditioning. Even when I had the option of air conditioning, I chose not to invest. It just didn't seem to be necessary in a place that only saw 90's for a week a year. But this year is a little different. We have consistently been 15 degrees above normal since July started. I'm not complaining. This seems like the first real summer in two years. (The garden LOVES the weather! Even if the rabbits are a little hot.)
Anywhooo, here I sit trying to cool off. The night air is fresh and I can glean a few puffs through the open window every so often. It smells nice, too. I started the water sprinkler on the garden before coming inside. So it smells like rain. I know we are a long way off from rain and what I'm smelling is just moist soil, but it's oh, so nice. The garden is coming along with the warmer temps. The weeds are too. I don't mind weeding. It's a reminder of my investment in our food production. I just don't have a lot of time. It seems that I spend a good deal of effort driving kids to baseball and volleyball and cello lessons and trumpet lessons and piano lessons these summer days.... I don't mind TOO much. It's just frustrating sometimes when I find myself finally getting to the garden at 9:00 at night.
Oh, well. My sweet mother reminds me that someday soon I'll miss the comings and goings of the kids and wish that I had another baseball game to watch instead of only having the garden to tend. I guess she's right. I just wish that I could find a little more balance.
But this minute, for now, I'm happy to listen to the sprinkler feeding the thirsty vegetables through the south facing window and to wait for a cooling puff of breeze that will remind me of rainy nights. And dream of big, fat, juicy Glacier tomatoes, and corn (bleck), and Contender green beans, and Sweet Meat Oregon Homestead squash, and warm, yellow Butterball potatoes......mmmmm, summer veggies. I can hardly wait....
It's a well known fact in my family that I am not a corn lover. I am actually a "if-I-put-corn-in-my-mouth-I'm-gonna-throw-up" kind of person. There's just something about the squirting juices when you bite down on a kernel.....bleck. I have very early memories of spit up on my dinner plate and all the brothers and sisters gasping at the site of half chewed corn swimming next to my mashed potatoes.
OK. Enough of the graphic details. I don't like corn.
But all of our kids and my beloved LOVE corn. So corn has a very important place in our family's home food production. There are many ways to eat corn other than fresh: polenta, parched corn and corn meal (for bread and johnny cakes....). Plus, we are trying to produce some of our animal's winter food. Even here in Northwest Montana, we can grow corn, though it takes special short season varieties.
So in anticipation of growing corn that we can serve to our animals and our sweet kids, I picked out a couple of different types as a kind of experiment for our garden this year. Since the garden spot was expanded quite a bit, I have a small area for "experimental" crops.
The first experimental corn I planted was the one noted below: Sapai Red Parch corn from Seeds of Change. Of all the "other" ways corn can be eaten, parched is the only way I have not tried. The corn is allowed to completely dry on the stalk in the fall, then the kernels shucked off the cob. The kernels are then roasted in a dry cast iron skillet until fragrant. They are supposed to taste great....better than pop corn (although I almost can't believe that! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE pop corn!). So we'll see. The little corn plants are not very impressive at this point, barely 5 inches tall (pictures to follow later today when I venture out into the garden). However, we have had a really cool, wet spring.....again. So I should just be happy that the little cornlings had the perseverance to germinate at all.
I have tried growing pop corn here several times with terrible results.....as in the corn either didn't grow well enough to produce a cob or didn't even sprout. So parching corn might be a nice substitute.
We also planted Mandan Red which is a corn flour. Its a medium- early corn that grows short bushy plants with 6 inch ears. The best part is that it will grow fairly fast and hopefully offer a flour that will be useful on our homestead. Supposedly the Supai Red can be milled as a flour, too but the kernels are harder to grind than the Mandan. Plus, the Mandan is supposed to have a sweet flavor to the four. We'll see.
I purchased a flint seed, Cascade Ruby-Gold Flint corn, which was developed by breeder Carol Deppe and was bred for her cool, wet springs. She calls it "the ultimate survival crop". It's actually doing pretty well! The plantlings are up about 6-7 inches and coming on strong. It's going to be fun to see how it progresses through the year. This is touted to be a very early productive flint corn "superb for cornbread, johnny cakes and polenta. Does well even in downright cold summers." Again....we'll see.
(A short season sweet corn from Burpee was planted along with all the others, but never made an appearance......just not tough enough for our Montana spring, I guess. So I tilled the spot under and put out some broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower starts I had left over for just this reason.)
I also saved seed from my corn patch last year: Painted Mountain. It's a corn specifically bred by Dave Christensen in the mountains of Montana. The website states this: "Painted Mountain grows fast even in cold climates where other corns struggle to stay alive in early spring. It also pollinates and fills out ears during the searing heat of the dry Montana summer. It takes 90 days to mature as dry grain in my cold mountain climate, about 2-4 weeks ahead of other "90 day" corn. Painted Mountain will grow food where many varieties will fail. Farmers find it a very efficient food source if grazed by livestock right off the field. The lack of woodiness in the stalks and soft starch of the grain give it a higher digestibility to animals than other corns. The highly nutritious grain promises to have many uses for humans and farm animals."
I found that Painted Mountain grew and produced actual corn during one of the worst gardening seasons I had ever experienced here on our farm several years ago. So even though it's considered an ornamental corn, I'm going to try and use it this year for grinding and parching. The chickens fight for the kernels so even if it doesn't taste great, it seems to be a dependable food source for the animals. So if the flavor isn't great, for the fact I can feed it to my animals, Painted Mountain has a spot in our garden.
All in all, this corn season will be interesting and hopefully very fruitful. I really can't wait for the results. I'm very concerned about our nations food supply/ production and everything I can do now to ensure our own ability to produce real food during uncertain times will help me sleep better at night.
These little guys are just 4 days old. Their eyes aren't open yet and they are almost hairless but, they quickly wriggle back into the warmth and familiarity of the nest when I pulled the fur away to look at them. They will be jumping out and pestering on each other and their mom in just two weeks. They won’t even look like this in as short as 7 days.
We have thistles in our pastures. I didn't really notice any thistles until last year. I'm not even sure where they came from because I have been watching for them to crop up from both our lands and our neighbor's lands. They just kind of exploded on the scene.
The thistle is the national symbol of Scotland and has rich historical value. The image of the thistle can be found on coins, flags and I guess is the name of several football teams (Wikipedia used the word "football".... but in Scotland....soccer maybe?)
Supposedly they have some medicinal uses (some medieval writers had thought it could help regrow hair on bald heads). And while I'm really interested in exploring the culinary uses of native plants, I haven't found a recipe for thistle that I'm ready to try. Around here thistle is very invasive. Don't let the pretty purple flower fool you. Thistles can monopolize a large area of pasture and kind of push out other pasture grasses in just a few years.
And though lots of animals will eat thistles, having thistles in your pasture is considered an indication of poorly cared for land. Plus, we don't have any animals that will eat a thistle right now (the chickens just turn their noses, umm, beaks, up at a thistle.)
So we have to get rid of the plant by hand before that pretty little purple head shows itself. After blooming, the head looks very similar to a dandelion head....a giant puff ball of seed, waiting for a breeze to spread itself ALL. OVER. EVERYWHERE. So it can NEVER be allowed to go to seed. Swift action must be taken to lop off the purple heads before the seed can spread. It's a constant battle.
Though it seems insignificant, thistle removal is really an important insurance for the future health of our pastures. So part of a farm kid's responsibility is to be on relentless guard for a thistle invasion and to take hasty action if a plant has gone unnoticed.
It's an all summer job.
It takes persistance and resolve.
It is NOT insignificant. It is not thankless.
This year the job goes to Daniel, our tenacious 13 year old.
Weed war: an important safeguard for our on-farm food supply.