Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Heat is on!

This is the time of year that I don't like to go outside, unless it's early morning or late evening.  It's just too darned hot!   I am thankful that so many of my growing veggies and herbs are heat lovers though.  Without all this heat, our tomatoes would be, well, those icky pale things you buy in the store.

If it's possible, I think I've used even more of my small space this year for growing things than ever before.  There is a pot on every step, mostly tomatoes and onions.   At the top is a tall trashcan with potatoes.   They were an afterthought.  I had not intended to have potatoes this year, but found some of my home-grown ones sprouted in the bottom of the fridge, so .........  At the bottom of the steps are big tubs on the right, one with leeks, and another with a bush-form of acorn squash.   On the left is a comfrey (medicinal) plant, that has been cut back many times already this year.  The leaves really make compost break down quickly, and if 'stewed' in a covered bucket, the liquid at the bottom can be used (diluted) as a wonderful fertilizer!  

I'm in danger of having so much room taken by plants, that there is no room for me on the deck!    Pictured behind the flowers are a pot with two varieties of cucumber, a bush form and lemon cucumber. Also basil, dill, thymes, a tomato and two pots with lavender sharing with cousin rosemary as well as sage.   Two varieties of eggplant out of the photo on the left are going gangbusters, as well as two planters of bush beans.   

There is no question that tomatoes in the ground do better than the ones in pots, but the potted ones are producing some fruit too, and that is the important thing.

One side of my potager.  Tons of stuff growing there.  Broccoli, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, chard, onions, garlic, turnips and more. I'll admit it.  Times are uncertain.  I'm planting more because I have more sense of urgency to do it - even though I couldn't begin to feed myself completely from my efforts, every little bit helps. 

Lest anyone think my backyard is only for plants.......  

On the drying rack under the deck is Bramble's fleece.  Bramble is from Boulderneigh  in Oregon, a small farm where they are also used to making the most of limited space.  They keep a garden, chickens, horses, a pony, dogs, at least one cat, and a small flock of Shetland sheep, all on about 5 acres, I think. The fleece is lovely browns and beiges, although it looks gray in this photo.  Michelle seemed concerned I might not like it, since it is the least fine of her sheep.  Not to worry, soft and fine are relative terms, and even though she's got sheep that are softer and finer, this one is yummy to me!

I've got half  of Bess's fleece soaking in the washing machine.  Bess comes from Tanglewood Farm, and her fleece really is the lustrous brown/black as it looks in the photo (link to Bess's name).   I'm not sure what it is about that fleece.  It has something I've never experienced before in a fleece.  Body, maybe?  I just know that when I washed the first half, when  I gathered it up into may arms, it would just sproing right back when I would lay it down again.  I wanted to hug it !!!! 

Washing a fleece in a washing machine is a big deal for me.   I heard other 'sheepy' friends talk about it, but I just never had the nerve.  So, for years I have been messing with small batches in lingerie bags in the sink, in Rubbermaid tubs in the bathtub..........many sloppy, inefficient methods to wash a fleece.  This weekend - I don't know why I decided to risk it - with two fleeces I like so much, - but I filled the tub on 'wash' with hot water, turned it off, added Dawn dish washing detergent (which I have always used, although it has it's detractors) and added the fleece,  letting it sink into the water.  After a while, I turned the washer button to "Spin," which drained the washer without agitating the fleece, and spun the excess water out of it.  (I had used the spin part before).    I repeated to rinse. - using as many washes and rinses as necessary.   No muss, no fuss, no felting,  and it did a beautiful job.   Why, oh why have I been doing it the hard way all these years?  

What about the other animals on the Wren Cottage homestead?   The rabbits and cats are lying low, the rabbits loving the air conditioning the cats seeking out any patch of sun they can to bake in.  (crazy animals)  On the chicken front, it's good news/ bad news. Nearly all of the girls started laying last weekend.  It's about time for the hens - they should have been laying long before this.  As for Nigella and Jasmine, the new Cochins, they have begun laying,  at six months - 2 or 3 months earlier than Dolley did.

The third pullet, Seraphina,  is a sad case.   A month or so ago, she began to limp noticeably.  I checked her thoroughly, and  couldn't find any sign of injury or bumblefoot (my first thought).  After limping for two days, on the third day, she was down and the leg was paralysed.  She still has movement from the hip, but the leg and foot are  definitely lifeless.  It's warm, so there is circulation.  The other leg has movement, and sometimes she flails around like she is trying to stand, but she doesn't seem to be able to coordinate it to stand (even if I hold her up) or try to hop on one leg.   My best guess is she had a stroke, or was pecked on the head (I did find the tiniest bit of blood on her comb) so hard she got a brain injury.   (that's what I work around all day, so that's the way I think)   

So what do you do with a handicapped chicken?   I know perfectly well what most people would do, but I could not, will not, take an animal and kill it with my bare hands, say what you will.  She eats and drinks well, (I feed her separately so I can watch her and make sure she gets adequate food and water)  seems chirpy and perky, and scoots around in her own way.  She doesn't seem to be suffering at all, and still enjoys cuddling together with her sisters at bedtime.  (they have always preferred that to roosting)   I just make sure her vent area stays clean, and make her as comfortable as I can, wondering how I could make a little leg brace or 'walker' for her. 

Before you think I've gone completely 'round the bend, I'll leave it there. 

That's the latest news from ......Wren Cottage.