Homestead Update: Autumn Growth, Birthdays, and A Chicken Scare

Homestead Update: Autumn Growth, Birthdays, and A Chicken Scare

Happy Friday, friends. It's been almost a month since I last shared a Homestead Update with you all. That seems really off to me, but the dates don't lie, and September just flew on by, just like it does every year. It's a strange month, an exciting one. You're caught somewhere between summer and autumn, only wishing that the latter would come sooner. It just doesn't last long enough, right? I've been trying to hold my tongue for as long as possible before releasing all of my autumn blog posts on you, trying to live by the seasons, and I honestly think I've done fairly well so far. Having a garden and relying so heavily on the weather has changed me in ways. The other night I attended one of my first Master Gardener classes (yes! you read correctly!), and we were asked which season was our favorite. I was that person that said I liked all of them - punch me now! But really this year I am loving experiencing each and every one! I've learned when lettuce can be grown, when turnips are supposed to be ready. I've grown to appreciate summer, a big feat for me, because it's the time for tomatoes, for canning, for harvesting sunflowers. I am excited to see what I enjoy during winter this year. Will it be planning for next year's garden, or perhaps it will be a long and easy refreshing breath before the hard work begins in spring. 

But let's rewind a minute... I am officially a Master Gardener Intern! Well, I will be, in another month or so. I'm currently taking some classes to become a Master Gardener, and I could not be more excited. What does that mean exactly? I'll basically be an official "community member." I can be called upon to answer questions about horticulture and local animals, start community gardens, fundraise for my local extension office, speak publicly about gardening, and even teach classes. How fun is that? I am really excited to get this qualification and continue to teach you all about this beautiful lifestyle. I am beginning to learn that I have this ache in my gut that is the desire to help others learn to grow their own food and create sustainable lives. Such a cool thing to be able to do just that across this platform!

The garden... it's truthfully been a little bit like a rebirth. The pests are not as active and neither are weeds, at least not within our fence. Everything is lush and green, new flowers are blooming, and there are hints of deep oranges, rusts, and yellows throughout. I am really enjoying seeing how autumn in the garden is turning up! I do feel a bit less inspired when it comes to what I planted. I am starting to realize that I just don't have enough space to plant every single vegetable I want. We already have several established plants thriving right now that I can't get rid of, even though I'd like to plant all of the root vegetables possible. Our pumpkins and butternut squash are done producing. I have about three winter squash left on the vine, and truthfully, they look a bit sad. It looks like the squash bugs took what they could of the last breath in them, and that's fine. But I don't want to plant anything new there until next year. I think it's the empty patches starting to pop up that make me a little sad.

We've finished harvesting our first set of radishes! I was trying to be patient this time by not pulling up every single one, but slowly taking what we would eat within that day or two until they were gone. I have two new rows coming up where the parsnips were supposed to be (I could not get those to start AT ALL!), and they should be ready within the next two weeks. It's been kind of fun taking this season to experiment with succession planting. I am enjoying sowing every week to two weeks so that we may have harvests constantly and consistently. I wish I had done that over summer! In fact, there were a couple of young Amish girls that wandered into our yard the other day and couldn't figure out how I had gotten my lettuce to stand up straight, to keep growing. I felt poorly because I really didn't have an answer... I just let them grow, thinned, and kept the weeds away. 

While at my Master Gardener class the other night, I realized that I would probably be getting questions like that quite often in the future. Things that I just can't explain, that I don't really have any control over. I can control the soil (somewhat), where things are planted, what they are fed. But the rest is up to them; I am just a gentle guide. I hope that I am able to gain more knowledge and be able to answer these questions, and I am grateful that you get to read along and follow this journey with me. I don't always know what I am doing, but I do my best to try and research as much as possible to try and figure it out. 

As of right now, we're mostly out in the beds picking lettuces, turnips, arugula, spinach, and lots of herbs. I am waiting for broccoli, broccoli rabe, cauliflower, carrots, beets, and more radishes. I am amazed, constantly. This is where food comes from!!!

After we arrived home from Ohio, I realized that I had been feeling a bit guilty about neglecting the chickens. There are definitely days where I feel overwhelmed with all of the tasks I need to complete and want to try and get my hands on. The nice thing about chickens is that can survive with a bit of neglect, but you probably won't get as many eggs as you are used to. For a while now, we've only been getting 3-4 eggs a day. I feel like Barred Rocks have decided to ditch out on the practice completely; I hardly ever see them in the nesting boxes. Truthfully, that's totally fine. I'll just let them do their thing; I really don't see a point in forcing a hen to lay an egg unless you have a supply/demand to meet, which we don't. My Australorps, Dorothy and Thelma, are both finally laying, and we've been getting some strangely shaped eggs from them!

When I say neglect, I mean that I haven't been cleaning their coop as often or giving them special treats other than their feed, oyster shells, and grit. With our show looming over us, it was mostly make, write, photograph, write, be a mom, write, eat, sleep, write. Running a business with just two people, even just one, is time consuming, and chicken treats were put on the back burner! When we got home, I ran out to the feed store and purchased a few pounds of mealworms and this really weird treat block thing. It's basically a bunch of different grains and protein snacks all broken down into a giant cube that looks like a salt block. It's as big as one of my chickens, and they love it! I am so happy that they do; it keeps them entertained throughout the day, and they like to compete with each other to see who can stand on top of the block the longest. They crack me up.

It was the day after I gave them their treat cube that I found a completely white egg with a large lump on it. Besides the lump, this was a strange find considering each of my hens is a brown egg layer. The egg seemed fine, save for the lump and a few pink cracks up one side. I wandered around to the run where the girls were and checked them out to see if any of them looked odd. Of course, Olive, my least favorite Buff Orpington was waddling oddly and her butt feathers, the fluffy underside, was drooping heavily. I noticed a lot of dirt in the feathers, and instead of really examining her, ran inside to search the internet. For the egg, I mostly came to the conclusion that sometimes hens with too much calcium will lay white eggs or eggs that have calcium deposits (little white bumps all over the shell) on them. I assumed it was just a fluke. But the butt feathers were weird - I couldn't find a single thing about droopy butt feathers!

Let me just say - Instagram can be a beautiful thing. I wrote about the issues on my Stories and received SO MANY messages from y'all about chicken butts. I had a place to go to for help, and I am so thankful! We all talked it through, and I felt better, at least about going out in the morning to check on poor Olive. I assumed she was egg bound or perhaps had some sort of illness. Turns out, when I walked out to the coop that morning, she was completely fine. There was no sign of droopy feathers or a weird looking vent... just a bunch of dirt. From a dirt bath. Her feathers had been weighed down the night before... I felt like an idiot!

It's all going by so quickly. Autumn hasn't even truly arrived, the weather still warm, yet I feel like I am going to miss it somehow. Like I won't be able to capture it in my photographs, bottle it up in my mind, and preserve the harvest. Perhaps that's because I have been preparing for so long; now I just get to sit back and enjoy it all. On Monday, we celebrated my 22nd birthday, indoors much to my dismay. It was in the high 80s and humid. We ate chocolate cake and watched movies, almost like a strange winter's day in summer. A few days before that, my dad took me out to purchase our beehive! It was the best birthday present. I am so excited to become a beekeeper next spring! Early this year I started taking some courses on beekeeping and have been reading lots and lots and lots about it since then. I have not yet experience owning my own hive, so I don't feel like I am qualified to teach how to keep bees, but I am excited to get started sharing what we're up to with it and how to get started. It will be such a thrilling new adventure! 

Everything is turning up purple and orange, and I am so ready for real sweater weather, pumpkin patch visits, and mulled apple cider. Hope you all have a lovely weekend! (:

xoxo Kayla

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