Posts Tagged ‘winter’

Hail!

We had a fairly heavy storm come through yesterday and it dumped a lot of hail on us. Here are a few pictures of our yard just after the storm.

Hail1

Hail2

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Thankfully the chickens were sensible and stayed in their house.

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Our broccoli seedlings were safe and warm in their little mini greenhouses (aka upturned plastic cups), installed the night before in the nick of time (good work MacGyver!)

Hail9

The silverbeet looks okay but this might be the end of the basil and mint for the season though – I’ve been expecting them to curl up and die for well over a month now, but so far they have stayed alive.

Hail4

 

This morning there was still lots of hail left on the ground.

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Hail second day01

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Hail second day04

The chickens came out and braved the icy ground this morning and seemed quite perplexed by the cold white stuff.

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Hail second day01

Splash was not amused by the cold stuff.

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The broccoli seedlings and mint (amazingly) look fine, but I think this is it for the basil.

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Hail second day06

Our makeshift kafir lime greenhouse (aka a plastic bag over a tripod) has also done a great job of protecting the little tree.

Hail second day09

All very exciting really.  It’s rare for Canberra to get snow that sticks to the ground so seeing everything white was a big novelty for the kidlets.  Mme Four had a lovely time building “hail castles” after the storm had passed.

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Winter Solstice preparations – orange pomanders

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orange pomanders

We spent the afternoon today making these beautiful decorations from oranges and cloves.  While it would be more awesome if the oranges were home grown, sadly we bought these.  They still smell delicious though and look very festive.  And Mme. Four had a lovely time helping to make them.  M. One, however, did not have as much fun – he found and ate a dropped clove.

The speed of Sprouts

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Mustard sprouts, two days on. Can’t wait to eat them! The Chia sprouts are starting to look sprouty too:

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Don’t mind their slightly odd look; they’ll grow out of it.

Roll Call Winter ’12

More for our records as much as anything else, here is a line up of who we have where, Winter 2012.

Main Pen sans inhabitants:

The rooster night box in the run.

“Clock”  Light Sussex cockerel, around 7 months old.  Named by our three year old.

Light Sussex hens: “Adelaide” (front), “Penelope” (middle) and “Henrietta” (back).  Sisters, just under 2 years old. As far as we know unrelated to Clock.

Two Blue laced silver Wyandotte hens: “Juniper” (L) and “Pepper” (R); and two RIR hens: “Scarlet” and “Carmine”.  Anyone’s guess as to which is which without looking at their legbands.  All around 18 months – 2 years old.

Our reliable layers: “Barnadette” 3 year old Barnevelder, and “Blue” nearly 2 years old, BLR wyandotte hen,

The little brown one at the back is the only one I couldn’t manage to photograph on her own.  She is a LS x RIR (sex-linked) pullet of our own hatching, 6 months old. She was the only girl hatched with about 8 boys (who were delicious…) and we decided to keep her to see how she lays.

 

In the aviary (the grower pen):

Araucana x GL Wyandotte cockerel & RIR pullet.  Hatched Feb 2012.  These two were rejected by Blue who was broody at the time.  She took a huge chunk out of the cockerels back but he healed up fine.  He probably will be eaten in a month or so, she will move to the main pen.  The third is a Welsummer pullet (around 6 months old) we are adjisting for a friend.

 

The green house is currently empty.

In the Araucana pen:

At the front “HughGrant” (so named for his hair).  Cockerel, nearly a year old. The other two lavender Araucana’s in this pen are “Tinsel” his full sister (also nearly a year old) and “Lavinia,” their mother (2 years old).  Hiding at the back is “Imogen”, black bantam Araucana, 2 years old.  The last pullet is “Houdini” Araucana x GL wyandotte, hatched in Feb and just come on the lay. She was raised by “Blue” (the very same who rejected the two in the aviary).  As her name would imply, “Houdini” has a bit of a knack for escaping.
“Houdini” lays a lovely green egg, “Tinsel” and “Imogen” blue eggs.  Lavinia is still moulting, but she lays blue eggs too.

 

And a temporary resident of the Araucana pen – this black cross breed cockerel, full sibling to “Houdini” and also raised by “Blue”.  He doesn’t have a name, and will probably only be around another few weeks.

In Craig’s Pen we have “Craig” (obviously), “Thyme” and newcomer “Gypsy”. “Gypsy” is about 7 months old (just come on the lay) and is some sort of Araucana cross from several generations back. She unfortunately doesn’t have the blue egg gene but I think she might be splash so she will hopefully make interesting coloured babies with “Craig”.

This is the pen we are breeding for temperament and/or interesting colours.

 

Our final pen is the brooder. It currently has 8 five week old chicks; 7 pure lavender Araucana one RIR x Wyandotte.  Two of the Araucanas have twisted beaks and are missing an eye each.  No doubt we will lose some of these chicks as they get older to cocci etc.  The two twisty beaks and one other look a bit cocci at the moment.  They are all being treated for it but it with meds in their water and a coccistat food but it never seems to do much good and we are mostly just resigned to losing a few as they get older.

They are nigh on impossible to photograph as they move around too fast!

And as an extra we are adjisting another four and a chicken tractor for a friend for a few months.

In the tractor there is a lavender Araucana, an Australorp and two Salmon Faverelles. No idea about ages.  The Araucana and Australorp are laying.

 

Winter

It is really cold here today and I am feeling miserable and hating winter, so I thought rather than just sit here with cold feet lamenting that none of the chickens are laying, I would make a list of things I actually like about winter.  Power of positive thinking and all that…

1. Winter is perfect knitting weather.

2. I love the way the house smells when I have a load of woolen washing drying inside over the air vents.

3. I can wear my hair out (it hangs about half way down my back) without my neck feeling sticky and hot.

4. Scarves and hats are fun.

4. And big coats.

5. Mulled wine…. mmmm…

6. Hot chocolate with marshmallows.

7. Baking so you can hang out next the oven.  (When we had one)

8. Reading curled up under a blanket.

9. Oranges are in season and cheap.

10. Sunny morning bike rides around the lake when everything is still covered in frost.

11. The cats seem to like me (or possibly just my warm lap) a lot more when it is cold.

12. I don’t have to worry (as much) about snakes when I take the toddler for a walk.

13. Sitting around a fire with friends.

14. Winter stews and soups cooked in the slow-cooker.

15. The roosters only start crowing around 6.30.

16. Preserves made in the Autumn are ready to eat.

17. The shortest day comes so early in the season.  (I’ve added this to the list because it means even when it gets colder you can still say “it’s all good, the shortest day has been so we are on the way back to spring”.)

18. Frosty but sunny mornings are really pretty.

19. Flannelette sheets, flannelette pyjamas, wool blankets and a wool quilt.

20. Jumping in the car and turning the heat up high on my feet.

A round number, that seems like a good place to stop!

Feel free to add other things you can think of…

In the meantime, here is an enormous picture of some sunflowers from last summer to remind us that spring will come back.

Winter Solstice

This post is a bit late, but we celebrated the Winter Solstice this year.  The solstice was June 22.  Now that we are trying to grow food seasonally, it feels fitting to mark the passing of the seasons of the year and to celebrate the return of the longer sunlight hours.  This should also mean that our chickens start to come back on the lay, or for those who haven’t laid yet, come into lay.  Laying is linked to sunlight exposure, so the return of longer sunlight hours is definitely cause to celebrate.  We have not had one single egg since the end of May!  We have had to go back to buying supermarket eggs!

We had some friends over for dinner and cooked up some goat in the weberate and ate food from our gardens.  We exchanged preserves from our Autumn harvest – pickled green tomatoes, pickled chillies, lemon butter mmm… And it seemed very fitting!

The younger kids had fun roasting marshmallows over a fire, while the adults (and nearly adults) mulled wine (here is a link to the recipe – it was just stunning).

Apparently I was having too much fun to take photos on the night but here are a few of the preparations – making the lemon butter, lemon candles and the the yule log themed table centerpiece.

All the ingredients for the lemon butter

Simmering and thickening the lemon butter

Liquid sunshine

Lemon candle - made from the left over lemon skins

And a couple of the Yule log. I know traditionally you are supposed to burn the Yule log, but I liked this idea better.

Winter colourful greenery from the hedge trees between us and a neighbour

My computer died and I lost a month

So the title says it all really and that’s more or less why it’s been so quiet here lately.  I just can’t be bothered typing a whole post on the iPod touch.  Also, winter is truly upon us; though it does not officially start here until June 1, last week we had -7°C overnight.  So not as many interesting things have been happening in the garden.  Our brassicas are looking a bit sad (I don’t think they are in a great spot I might move them) and the herb garden is dying back, though the garlic, peas and broad beans are sprouting and growing nicely.  I’m counting the days down to the winter solstice (29 to go!) so the days will start getting longer again.  It’s not even winter yet and I’m already hanging out for spring!

The three sussex chickens have slowed down their laying with the shorter days and we usually only get one egg every few days now.  This is one of the down sides of having purebreds rather than commercial hybrid layers whose tendency to broodiness and winter slow down have been bred out of them.  However I much prefer to be helping to keep increasingly rare breeds of chicken alive, so I am happy with the purebreds.

Craig the rooster started crowing a few weeks back and he and Red started having a few tiffs so we moved Craig in with the chicks on the other side of the house.  He is now king of the roost over there rather than at the bottom of the pecking order in the big pen (he was just so small compared the the enormous sussexes and Rhode Island Red!), so he is a Very Happy Boy Indeed.  I finally finished building the little chicks a secure run with a roof, which is now installed.

New run

Chicken sized door

This side butts up against the existing coop

Run with the lid down

Hanging feeder

Chicken sized door to the outside

All in place. The bricks have been replaced with latches now too.

The big pen has been in a bit of a state of flux over the last few weeks as our friend has been bringing us her boys as she is downsizing her flock.  Some are a bit small to eat yet so we are growing them out.  We’ve now eaten two Rhode Island Reds (this one, plus another a few weeks later), and at the moment we have five boys in the growing queue – another RIR, the two barnevelders, an ancona and an araucana.

RIR #3 and ancona boy

The barnie boys

Red and the two barnies

Including Red and Craig, we currently have almost as many boys as girls, but luckily Craig is the only crower, and he doesn’t crow much yet and so far the neighbours don’t seem to mind.  I dearly wish we could give them eggs for being so great about us having chickens, but we just don’t have any!

And finally, some chicken dramas recently:

  • One of the barnies ripped off a toenail/claw.  It was only half off at first and it bled a lot so he got to be isolated for a few days until it pretty much dropped off.  Incidentally, this is now the only way we can tell the two barnies apart.  This one is Barney, the one will all his toes is Fred.

Missing a toenail (don't worry, it's actually betadine here)

  • Juniper got a cut on her comb
  • The sussexes all got lice so everyone (including us in the process – ew) got to have several extra Pestene (flea and mite powder) doses.  Dusting flapping animals with a fine powder.  Not as fun as it sounds.
  • While excavating to install the new chicken run we discovered a family of mice living under the little coop.  Four baby mice were rapidly dispatched with a spade, and six more (and counting) with traps since.  This area is in the middle of a mouse plague so I suppose we couldn’t stay immune forever.

Excavating a mouse house under the little coop

Four baby mice

Well, that’s about all I’ve got time for now.  Off to bed soon, early to bed early to rise and all that – it comes with the farmer/toddler territory!

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