Homestead Update: Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer
Each new day feels more full than the last. My to-do list seems never-ending, and I think I finally reached a point of utter exhaustion last week after taking a six hour nap with Tad - six! - after the farmer's market. Wow! It felt really good. I still cannot believe that happened.
It was due to four early mornings of harvest, afternoons of desperately trying to weed and tie up tomato plants that were falling over, and evenings spent gathering fruiting vegetables like summer squash and beans. By Friday, I had harvested more than enough to feed our CSA customers and was back at it that night rushing until 11 PM to harvest more for the market the next morning, which we leave for at 4:30 AM.
Not to mention that our chickens were somehow locked out of their entrance to the run to get into the coop for the night. Usually they all march in at dusk and find their ways to the roosts on their own. I was out in the field trying to pull off stalks of chard in the pitch black when I heard a scuffle in the coop. Assuming all of the ladies had made their way inside, I opened up the door to the garden shed (attached to the front half of the coop where the kittens live) and found 15 chickens sprawled out all over the place: on the work table, on the built-out nesting boxes, on the shelves, on top of the tiller, in the cat food. It was a mess. There were two chickens just wandering around outside and three stuck in the park. The door to the run had been closed, and they had not been able to get inside. I carried each bird one by one into the coop and made the head count: 23. Two were missing.
I called in to my dad to help me search for the missing hens, a Buff Orpington and Salmon Faverolle. I figured they'd at least be easier to spot with their light colors. It took us 45 minutes to find them, and I was getting more and more frustrated by the minute! I had already lost too many animals (three to be exact, so far) and even though loss is something that inevitably happens on a farm, I did not want any more deaths on my conscience if I could help it. They were still as could be and silent, roosting in the top of a small bush right outside of the run. My dad found them with flashlight and their white and mustard feathers. It would not have been for the noises they made, because those girls were keeping quiet! Smart hens!
In other news, I am in a bit of a bind with what to do about our ducks. They are proving to be a bit of a nuisance on our farm. I was so excited to get them in the spring! They're ruining a lot of our property, much more than the chickens ever do. Chickens, while they do scratch, do not create complete mud patches of the little lawn we do have. The ducks also, for whatever reason, love to poop on the pavement. And it's not like an easily flickable poo either. It's splatter, and it's so gross. Their coop a big mat of straw and manure. And the males are getting mean. The mating thing is kind of, well, nature. But I hate watching the drakes fight with each other. That started early this week. I think we may just have too many males at this point; right now I think there are four, but the other Pekins could also be males. It's hard to tell!
Anyway, we've discussed multiple options for what to do with them. Of course our friends and neighbors all love to suggest that we butcher and eat them ourselves for the experience! I do not know. That does intrigue me in ways... Would it be interesting to experience and share? Would it break me? Would I mind considering I kind of don't really like these ducks at all? Another option is to sell them. Whether that's by just putting a for sale sign out on the roadside or putting them up on Craigslist. If you are local and want eight ducks (you have to take them all, please!) then let me know.
Our final option, of course, is to just grin and bear it. I've also considered just killing off the males and keeping the females to see if I want the eggs. But I am kind of at the point where if one goes, they all go. You know? I know there will be one opinion or the other on this one.
Markets, CSA, and harvests are going so well! I have to owe a lot of that to healthy soil (a blessing!) and careful planning. It's been... relieving in many ways. Each week, when Monday arrives, I worry and worry that I won't have enough food to please everyone. By the time Thursday rolls around, our fridge is so jam-packed that I can't harvest everything I want to. It's a real rollercoaster of anxiety, let me tell ya! Already today I am worrying that our next week of CSA will look scarce. I know that it's not true, but I still feel the itch of disappointment looming. I am thankful that we kept our numbers small this year so we could experiment.
I am already bubbling with ideas for next year, things that I want to add to our business and expand on. Jill and I talk daily about how we're already excited for the 2019 season even before this one is half way over! There is so much we have already realized and learned from our plot. It should be a fun winter of putting plans together. I now understand why winter was considered a time of rest. It will no longer feel boring each year, I can attest to that! I will be hibernating and doing the hygge.
A big thing that I have not enjoyed about the harvest this year is that all of our food is going to other people, and I did not plant enough to preserve for our family this winter. Gah! Not a terrible problem to have, just something that I would like to fix for next year. I was excited to make some fermented crock pickles earlier this week, and when I measured out the amount I needed it left nothing for our customers. Ah well... Maybe next year I can find a small plot to plant storage vegetables specifically!
The only other story I have to share is a sad beginning but happy ending.
Our sweet Poppy was attacked by, we think, a Great Horned Owl. My little beloved cat, who followed us everywhere and sat in the garden patiently like a dog waiting for us to finish up. He was put out of his misery, and as we cried and felt terrible, Tad said the sweetest thing, "When one cat dies, another cat wakes up." Oi. My heart.
Then two weeks ago, we heard the saddest little meow coming from one of the bushes outside of the house. It was a tiny fluffy orange kitten, matted and covered in burrs. I caught it (not easily) and could feel that it hadn't eaten in days, maybe even weeks. It was nothing but fluff and bones. We brought it inside and fed it, gave it lots of pets and cuddles, and removed the burrs and ticks inhabiting its fur. The poor baby was so tired and had walked miles to our farm.
He's so friendly. The other kittens have welcomed him gracefully, and they all get along great - something that doesn't happen often! We've named him Honey and are so happy that he decided to make our farm his forever home. We were told later by some neighbors that this breed of cat, Norwegian Forest, is a pretty common "neighborhood" stray around here. Too funny! And that they are all short and stocky shaped.
Lots of animal stories this week! I hope you are having a pleasant summer, and they you too are experiencing some funny animals in your life.