Ah, The Glimmer of Hope… and Other Less-Sad Tales

Blanche

Blanche

Again today, just after lunch, I went to let the chickens out into the garden.  Again the nest boxes were devoid of chickens.  Blanche was out in the run and she came out with everyone else and free-ranged for quite a long time.  Dare I be happy?  This time she did not put herself away and back into a nest after a few minutes in the grass.  This time, she stayed out until I had to shoo them all back in and when I closed the gate behind them, she hopped up on an outdoor perch and prepared to hang out.  I was definitely excited but I knew better than to get my hopes up too much.  A little after 5pm, I went out to gather eggs (they’ve been laying in the late afternoon lately).  She was in a nest.  Defiant as ever.  Sitting on nothing.

STILL… it gives me hope.  If she had actually been sitting on eggs, she would have let them go cold in all that time she spent off the nest.  This makes me think she’s maybe, JUST MAYBE losing interest.  Maybe it will be a slow process.  There was a time when I might have thought that the end was definitely near.  I mean… it takes 21 days to fully incubate chicken eggs to the point of hatch.  Shouldn’t hens have an internal mechanism that says, ” Click!  It’s been three weeks!  You’re done sitting on whatever you’ve been sitting.”  And voila!  No more broodiness.  However… one of my loyal readers, Nancy aka Sweet Cheeks, recently commented on here that she had a Barred Rock that went broody for 2 1/2 months before she finally gave in and gave her eggs to hatch.  Apparently it’s not a timing thing… it’s hatched babies that makes them stop sitting.  Sigh.  I really hope that this means Blanche is getting over it on her own.

Blanche, Shelley, and Lady B enjoy a pumpkin

Blanche, Shelley, and Lady B enjoy a pumpkin

At this point, despite Brian’s concerns, I would be more than willing to give her eggs to hatch.  However, there is a time coming when we’ll have to be gone while the babies would still be too young to be in with the big chickens.  That would mean I would have to ask someone to take care of not one set of chickens, but two… and with special instructions for the little ones.  My neighbors take care of my chickens while I’m gone, but they are super busy and I just couldn’t ask them to do it.  And I don’t know anyone else whom I could even ask.  So, it’s more or less out of the question.  If the first of the year rolls around and she’s still broody and still alive, then she can hatch, I guess.  Double sigh.

Fight!

JB and Luke face off

JB and Luke face off

As I’ve mentioned in the past, our roosters occasionally spar.  Nine times out of ten, it amounts to nothing more than an umbrella-necked stare-down, as pictured above.  But now and again we actually get a bit of action.  And until not, I’ve never once had my camera with me.  Today that changed.

action shot

action shot

Believe me when I say that it’s far less impressive than it looks.  Please note the total lack of concern from the girls, just feet away.  Recently, Luke has been testing the waters with both Soup and JB.  Luke has resided firmly at the bottom of the male totem pole since day one.  It is only the last few days where he has expressed any desire to move from this position.  Usually he just challenges Soup because Soup is number two.  But today he skipped right to the big kahuna – JB.  He was quickly put in his place… but not before I got some cool action shots!

fight! 034

fight! 035

Luke did all the jumping (he’s the one in the air in every pic).  JB did all the winning.

fight! 036

While this was going on, Soup decided that he was the new King of the Coop (since the others were busy fighting, I guess).  So he stood around with the ladies and flapped and crowed.

Soup - "oh, I guess I'm in charge now.  Look at me, ladies!"

Soup - "oh, I guess I'm in charge now. Look at me, ladies!"

After opening a can of whoop-ass on Luke, JB ran over to knock Soup down a rung or five.  Soup cowered and ran before JB even got to him.

Soup shies away from JB

Soup shies away from JB

Still the king.

Still the king.

Happy Garden Tidbits

Hood strawberry - ripe today

Hood strawberry - ripe today

I picked this lovely lady today and she was sweet as candy and highly perfumed.  Late October and two frosts later and still going strong.

I will take this opportunity to tell you this story (warning: vent).  I picked out and designed my wedding cake many months ago… like 5 months before the wedding or something.  The patisserie is in Sonoma and is run by two sisters.  The one that worked with us is the “people person.”  She does front-of-house, meetings, business, etc.  So nice and so helpful and so excited about the cake we designed TOGETHER with many of her suggestions.  The other sister is the “artist” (pronounced, ar-TEEST!)… and she does not play well with others.  This is why she does not do meetings.  Four days – count ’em FOUR – before my actual wedding, I get a call from the *other* sister.

Sister: “We ordered in this special strawberry mold just for you and it was very hard to find but you wanted strawberries so we got it.  But I JUST don’t see how this is going to work.  The red of the strawberries is all wrong with the design.  How am I going to do an autumn harvest cake with red strawberries?”

I kid you not.  Did I mention this was FOUR DAYS before the wedding?  She couldn’t have called ANY earlier to voice her artistic concerns?

I said, “Well, we talked about general small fruits and berries, such as strawberries.  Your sister actually suggested the tiny strawberry vines.  I’m happy with however you feel it will look best.”

Sister: “But I only work with things that are in season.  Strawberries aren’t even in season!”

Me: “Um… I’m still picking them in my garden right now.”

Sister: “Well I wish I lived where you live.”

Yeah.  True story.  I paraphrased most of it, but that last line… that was word for word.  I’ll never forget it.  “She’s not a people person” is the understatement of the century.  Beyond that, I grew up in the Bay Area.  I spent the vast, vast majority of my first 26 years of life there.  And my whole family still lives there.  You can buy strawberries from January until November there easily… some farmers’ markets have them year-round.  Fresh, local, and organic.  Here in the Pacific Northwest, my plants provided fruit for me until December last year and are still going this year.  Exactly what did she mean by “strawberries aren’t in season?”  This woman works with food all year round and is actively involved with local farmers’ markets.  She should know the strawberry season as well as anyone.  And she “wishes she lived where I lived?”  What – so she could have a shorter strawberry season that still extends well into Fall and certainly past October 4th???

Anyway, my magical, amazing, perfect, unforgettable, I-will-love-her-forever wedding planner called the Other Sister and smoothed things out.  And voila!  Fall harvest cake with tiny sugar strawberries.  And she said it couldn’t be done…

wedding cake

Anyway, back to the garden…

Da Taglio Chard

Da Taglio Chard

The chickens and a few bugs have had some nibbles, but after a slow start back in the Spring, my chard is still doing very well and never even batted an eyelash at the frosts.

Da Taglio Celery and Italian Flat-leaf parsley

Da Taglio Celery and Italian Flat-leaf parsley

The seedlings for my Da Taglio Celery (broad leaves and slender stalks, called a “leaf-cutting variety” for seasoning soups and stews… I use them in salads too) and my parsley look pretty much the same at transplant and though I thought I kept them separated, I guess not.  Though they are mixed together, they both are growing beautifully right now and are untouched by frost.  And yes, those are some strawberry vines you see in there, trying to take over their space.  I’m not the world’s most organized gardener, OK?

sprouting pea

sprouting pea

And lastly, I have found these little surprises/experiments.  I may or may not have left some of my pea vines on the trellis in the garden to dry all summer because I may or may not have been a bit too lazy/busy to pull them all up.  On those vines were some overly-mature pods that never got picked.  Those have now dried and dropped to the ground and pooped out the peas.  And with this rain and the mild temps lately – bam!  Pea sprouts.  Now… I know you can grow peas in the fall… even in the winter in some climates.  But late October is a REALLY late start and our winters aren’t that mild.  We’ll see what happens.  I will let them do their thing.  No harm no foul either way.  Last year I had peas until the freak snow/ice storms of December 2008.  That more or less did them in.

ice-covered pea vines, after ice storm, December 21st, 2008

ice-covered pea vines, after ice storm, December 21st, 2008

Rooster P.S.

Luke, with a bloody beak

Luke, with a bloody beak

I forgot to show you my cool pic of the blood on Luke’s beak after the fight.  I’m not sure whose blood it was because neither Luke nor JB seemed to be bleeding.  But rest assured JB won… so it was probably Luke’s own blood somehow.  Boys will be boys, eh?

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