HOW BEAUTIFUL IS MY CABBAGE???? Damn, I love growing cabbages. So awesome.
First, the cucumbers:
Yes, yes, I KNOW I planted too many cucumbers this year. And no, I don’t have a clue what to do with all of them. One can only make so many pickles… and one or two cucumbers go a long way as members of a salad or even as the main veggie with a meal. However, my overenthusiasm has put me in the fortuitous position of being able to review the varieties I’ve grown and make recommendations based on them.
“Parade” is hands down my number one favorite of the bunch. I have never grown it before, and I’ve never known anyone else to grow it either, so it is totally new to me this year. I bought the seeds from Cherry Gal, and it’s really the only place that seems to have them that I can find. Accoring to Cherry Gal, and other websites, this is an old Russian Heirloom that is prized for its heavy yields of uniform fruits that mature at about the same time, so they are good for processing/pickling (lots of fruit all at once), and is also very resistant to extreme weather.
In my own garden, this is the star performer. The seeds germinated first (out of all six varieties), the plants grew largest fastest, set fruit first, has had the heaviest and most consistent crop, the fruits are beautiful – smooth, shiny, plump, dark green – lovely. I pick several off of my 5 or 6 plants every couple of days. These are also the healthiest vines. While some others have gotten a bit of powdery mildew, or crispy, browned leaves… “Parade” has just gone on perfectly heathily, laughing at our 111-degree heat, the *slightly* crowded conditions in my cucumber box, not caring how much or when I water. Nothing. This will most definitely be a staple in my garden from year to year, assuming I can still find the seeds! It makes beautiful pickles and is great for fresh eating. It’s got absolutly everything going for it. The only thing about the description that I have found to be untrue is that it doesn’t seem to ripen a whole crop of fruit at once. I pick fruit regularly and there are always more coming along. But I still get PLENTY for pickles, so this is my big winner :)
“Endeavor” is tied for my second-place favorite this year, along with “White Wonder.” “Endeavor” comes in a close second to “Parade” in just about everything. These are my second-most vigorous and healthy vines, and my second-most prolific producer. The vines are not quite as robust as those of “Parade,” but they are still doing very well. The fruits are thinner, slightly spinier, less-shiny, and not quite as straight. But they’re still great. I’m getting tons of these and I think they are darn close to as good as “Parade.” I bought the seeds from Renee’s Garden, and would highly recommend them. They are on my list for next year as well. I think they are particularly well-suited to pickles. They don’t get quite as big or plump as quickly as “Parade,” and so are perfect for whole dill pickles or pickle spears. The mildew and crispy-leaf syndrome don’t seem to be bothering these either.
“White Wonder” ties for second place with “Endeavor.” I know they look a little weird, but I’m telling you, they’re pretty cool! I bought the seed because the name intrigued me – duh. I also got this from Cherry Gal, who seduced me with the great photograph and description. I’m a sucker for that sort of thing. However, luckily, this one lives up to its description AND photo (not common in the vegetable world, lemme tell ya)! Her description says they were introduced by Burpee in 1893 from seeds obtained from a customer in Western New York. Very crisp, ivory-colored, great flavor for fresh eating or pickles. All totally true. Now, “White Wonder” is not as productive as “Endeavor” or “Parade,” but it is still pleasingly productive… I get one to three beautiful cucumbers every 2-3 days from my 4-5 plants. I think it has the best flavor for fresh eating of all my varieties, and it makes lovely, unusual-looking pickles. A couple of the leaves are stating to show a touch of mildew, but nothing much. This is another variety I would happily grow again.
Known as “True Lemon,” “Heirloom Lemon,” or simply, “Lemon,” this is another old heirloom (introduced in 1894). My family and I have grown this variety on and off for my whole life… and I have to say, I’m torn about it. Its claim to fame, other than its cool appearance, is that it is more easily digestible than most cucumbers (it falls into the category of “burpless” cucumbers). Personally, I like it only for it’s looks. I know, that’s shallow of me, but I can’t help it. It’s just so pretty! However, I don’t find this to be an otherwise-standout fruit. Its flavor is nothing to write home about, and the vines are far from vigorous. They always seem to be stricken with something; this year it’s mysterious crispy-leaves syndrome. They still produce OK, but still. I’m a sucker for pretty fruits and vegetables, and so here it is in my garden again… but I won’t grow it every year. It’s pretty in salads, but it’s not useful as a pickling cucumber because of its shape. Eh… so that’s how I feel about it: eh.
Easily dead-last on my list is “Homemade Pickles.” I bought the seeds from Botanical Interests (no offnse, Botanical Interests, I still love you! I love lots of your seeds and I remain a faithful customer. I just call it as I see it.), and I have to say that this cucumber lived up to exactly zero points of its description. The main points are its “excellent disease resistance” and its “VERY HIGH yields.” I couldn’t disagree more. I planted these seeds at the same time, on the same day, in the same box, in the same soil, as all my other varieties. And yet, I have gotten all of four – count ’em, FOUR – whole fruits from my six plants so far. I get that many in ONE DAY from some of my other varieties! It has by far and away the lowest yield of all the varieties that I’m growing (not counting the Sour Mexican Gherkin… more on that in a minute). Beyond that, the fruits are misshapen – fat at one end, and skinny/pointy at the other. My mom happens to be growing the same variety in her garden in California this summer and hers are shaped exactly the same way. That makes them bad choices for pickles because you want uniform fruit for shapely spears or slices. And lastly, these plants are covered in powdery mildew. They are the only ones of the bunch. Disease resistance, indeed.
Sour Mexican Gherkin
I have no pictures of this variety because it turns out the vines are TEENY TINY (like spaghetti), and they got swallowed up by my other vines. Now that I know, I think will try them again next year in their own little private spot. They might need a little coddling, but they are intriguing, and as I’ve said – I’m a sucker for great descriptions and weird fruits and veggies. These are a newly rediscovered heirloom from Mexico that produces teeny 1″-2″ fruits that fall off the vine when ripe and have a sweetness, followed by a surprising sour flavor “like they’re alreay pickled!” I got the seeds from Cherry Gal, who says they are also known as “Mouse Melons.” I’m excited to try again next year.
Chicken News: Dustbaths, Goodbye to Scruff, and Worming Questions
So, it turns out that my chickens are environmentalists. They recycle! Or, more correctly, they repurpose. What you see in the picture is one of the spots where we dug up worms for Sruff when he was a baby back in the Spring. Remember when he was, Scruffy – King of the Worm Eaters? Ah, yes, the good old days… back before the rooster gangs… back when the boys were just cute… they were more peaceful times… But, I digress. That one particular spot didn’t seem to grow its grass back (funny how the grass shows up in every damn spot I DON’T want it, though) and suddenly the girls have discovered it. Now it is no longer a worm mine. Instead, it is the greatest of all dustbaths. Every single time I let them out of the run now, a handful of them head right for this spot and start scratching and fluffing and pecking and rolling and having a gay old time.
Chickens, like pigs and elephants, dustbathe to cool off and to clean up – it helps keep down lice and mite levels on their skin. So, now, they are my bathing beauties :)
Bye, Bye, Scruff
And, as you have probably gathered from my section heading, Scruff has officially moved to Cori’s to be king of his new domian. And, he seems to be happy as a clam and her girls have taken to him like fish to water. So, all is well in Scruff’s world.
Cori came down to our house this past Saturday morning, with three kids and a cage. We headed out to visit the chickpeas, preparing for a lengthy chase. But, we let them out of the run, and within a couple of minutes, Brian just knealt down and scooped up Scruff before he know what hit him! He made us look like chicken-catching pros! We stuck him in the cage and the three other boys proceeded to dance around the cage, wings dropped, mocking his confinement. And then Cori whisked him back to her car, strapped him into the front seat with a seatbelt, and off they went. The rest, as they say, is history. You can read that history over at My Empty Nest Days, here, here, and here. Cori thoughtfully chronicled Scruff’s introduction to her flock with great pics and details. I hope he keeps up his good behavior for her! He always wanted to be a gentleman here, but was never given the chance! Now with nine girls of his own, how could he not be on cloud nine?
A Note on Worming Chickens: A World of Confusion
Remember when I mentioned that I wasn’t surprised to find that Maggie was one of the two that died during the heatwave? I told you that she had been sneezing and had a whistle/wheeze to her normal breathing for a couple of days, but otherwise seemed fine? Well, until the other day, all of my reading had told me that sneezing without other symptoms just means something like a dust allergy or a slight cold. But then, I was on BYC a couple of days ago and I saw a thread titled, “Chicken sneezing and wheezing.” So, I clicked on it. Long story short, the person determined that the symptoms were being caused by something called gape worm (aka, “The Gapes”). The symptoms sounded so familiar that I decided to do some of my own research on gape worm. This is what I found:
- gape worm is a small, red worm that is in the group called “round worms” and is also known as “the gapes,” “red worm,” and “forked worm.”
- gape worms are picked up by poultry (chickens, turkeys, pheasants, etc) in one of two ways: indirectly or directly.
- “indirectly” by eating insects that are carriers. Earthworms and grasshoppers in particular are carriers.
- “directly” from eating feces of other infected birds, usually wild birds, or other chickens, etc.
- so, in summary, birds that free-range at all on grass and bugs are at risk.
- the eggs hatch in the intestines and the worms migrate to the lungs where the hang out until they are mature, when they move to the trachea and attach themselves to it with their mouthparts (gross).
- typical symptoms are constant shaking of the head and coughing to try to dislodge the worms, as well as “gaping,” which is stretching the neck way out and opening the mouth wide to try to get enough air past the worms. Sneezing, wheezing, and excessive panting are less common, but are generally caused by blocked airways and air that is whistling past the clump of worms (gross again).
- the gasping and straining for breath is hard on the heart and lungs and leads to overall weakness, which leaves the birds highly susceptible to other stresses (heatwave, anyone?).
- death usually eventually ensues, due to strangulation by a large clump of worms (how horrifying is that?)
OK, so that is what we know. Every source seems to agree fully on the above points. Here is the rest of the information I found on it, which is all highly confusing and conflicting:
- gape worm is very easily picked up by free-ranging chickens OR gape worm is extremely rare in chickens
- to confirm a diagnosis, you can look down the chicken’s throat for worms OR you can’t see the worms, don’t bother looking (how would you manage that, anyway?)
- to confirm a diagnosis, have a vet do a fecal sample test for eggs and worms OR fecal tests don’t show gapeworm because the worms and eggs are not shed in the feces
- only very young birds really suffer from gape worms, they don’t bother adult birds much OR gape worms are horrifying and death rapidly ensues for all birds of all ages
- fenbendazole is the only treatment that works on gape worms OR ivermectin also works OR ivermectin is the same thing as fenbendazole OR piperazine also works OR piperazine and wazine don’t work on gape worms
- fenbendazole and ivermectin can never be given to birds that will produce eggs or meat destined for human consumption OR you just have to wait 7 days after dosing to start eating the eggs again OR you have to wait a month before eating them
- treatment should be given only when needed OR treatment should be given regularly once per year OR every 6 months OR every 3 months OR every month OR continuously
- Verm-X is an organic alternative treatment that treats and prevents all types of worms in livestock OR Verm-X is only a preventative, but not a treatment OR Verm-X doesn’t work at all and is a hoax
So, in summary, there is no definite way to confirm if your chickens have gape worm. Then, if you somehow do think they have it, there is no approved treatment (fenbendazole and ivermectin are not approved for use in poultry in the USA and are totally banned from food animals in California). And the treatments that are purported to work are horrifyingly scary chemicals. But, if you don’t treat, some places imply that a horrible death soon follows.
So, I am at a complete loss. I have been watching my birds like a hawk since I started thinking about this. Every little sneeze or yawn or headshake has me in a nervous wreck. I think, “that’s it – they’ve all got it. I have to treat. Somehow. With something.” But then, nothing seems to stick around. One sneeze now and again is totally normal, just as in all animals. Daisy Mae did the stretched-neck open-mouth thing a few times in a row the other day and then stopped and I haven’t seen her or anyone else do it since (and trust me, I’m checking all the time). Ugh. So, for now, I’m not doing anything but watching. And worrying. I’m trying not to worry, but it’s hard for me. I don’t want to use nasty chemicals and I don’t want to kill my whole flock of chickies because I neglected to treat either.
The truth of the matter is, I had one sneezing/wheezing girl for two days several weeks ago, and then she died, probably from the heat. No one else has given me real reason to worry since then… I’ve seen no other symptomatic birds. But, I’m keeping my eyes and ears peeled. If I get one gaping, sneezing, or head-shaking bird… I’ll have to do something. I just wish I knew what…