Boy, have we been busy! And to think we can barely call ourselves a farm, we're so small. Larger farms must be an extraordinary amount of work. I'm sensing that the key to it all is time management. Talking to other farmers at the Farmer's Market, it seems they are up at sunrise (around 5 am, or slightly earlier), and out in the fields often til 9 pm, usually with at least a few other family members to help. That's a long day. Especially when you are battling bugs, scorching sun, and getting dirty, dirty, dirty! Between the store, the farm, and Alex's off-the-farm job, we spend that many hours working, but not out in the fields. Our fields might be suffering a bit, but we're learning...
So, the biggest news around here is that the roosters gotta go. I mean, they REALLY gotta go. They are big, and nasty (all I'm going to say is you can hear chickens poop and it isn't pretty, especially when it's right on top of another chicken), and they are getting MEAN. So far, no one has had any aggression toward me (good thinking... aggression towards food source is not smart). But two of the roosters, Big Fatty and Speckles (see photos) are seriously bullying the smallest rooster. To the point that I fear they may kill him. He barely eats, or drinks, and hides in the corner. I had to isolate him this morning, I felt so bad for him. But there is not much else we can do... roosters get mean. Perhaps we'll build another chamber to the coop, and we can separate any "victims". But if I know anything about Big Fatty, it's that he will find someone else to bully.
So Michael from next door has offered to come over on the next rainy day for The Butchering. He, and everybody else we've ever asked, has told us that we absolutely cannot have a butcher kill our chickens (it's simply ridiculous, they say, you kill your own chickens...unless you are some kind of sissy, apparently). So it's happened that we will kill our own chickens. Trial by fire. We wanted to be farmers... so here we go. I'll write a post, I'm sure, after The Deed, but I probably will spare you the photos this time...
The plants are doing very well, but it's becoming very apparent that we did not plant enough for mass production. We will indeed have to step it up a notch next year. But that's OK, this was our trial year at the Farmers' Market, and so far it's going better than expected. There is a lot of interest in our Certified Naturally Grown Farm (yes, we are certified now- with transitional status for 3 years). Our seedlings sold like crazy (OK, I should probably admit here that I actually sold too many seedlings, and shorted myself on a few crops... oops....). Our lettuces were spectacular- true beauties. Gorgeous, colorful, and full of flavor. It's going to be tough to reproduce that flavor in the heat of summer now, but we are going to try.
I found our first hornworm. Otherwise known as The Enemy. A hornworm can literally decimate an entire tomato plant in a few days, if left unattended. The one I found was a baby, and the chickens sure did enjoy it. Wait until they see the full-grown suckers. You haven't fully appreciated a tomato until you have slaughtered a bucket of hornworms in order to get it. I mean, let's just say that they seem more animal-like than insect, and their guts are neon green. Enough said.
Our cucumbers, zucchini, golden zucchini, and eggplant have started coming in. Yum! The spinach and arugula have started bolting, so we planted a new crop, a bit in the shade, and we'll see how that goes. The potatoes are doing well, as is the corn (see photo). A beautiful example of companion growing has sprung up.... all around the corn, clover has started growing like crazy. Clover is a nitrogen-fixing plant, which means that it actually replaces nitrogen in the soil. So, since corn needs huge amounts of nitrogen, but leaves the minerals/nutrients that clover needs, they grow so well together. Often farmers will plant clover as a cover crop, but this clover is just growing naturally. And it is growing at least three times as thick around the corn as anywhere else. Isn't nature cool??!!
Lastly, I have some new pets. It seems our above-ground pool, which flipped over in a storm and formed mini-pools of water, is teeming with tadpoles. So of course, I refuse to destroy this little amphibian habitat, and have even taken to feeding them (fish food flakes), though they do a very good job of munching down any insects that are unfortunate enough to land in their puddles. We are having our annual pig roast in one month, and the pool is a must, so I'm hoping these little suckers get some legs, and quick. Oh, and some lungs and all while they are at it. Our friend Josh says they are Leopard Frogs. Whatever they are, they are destined to eat about 10,000 insects per year each, and so in my book, they are cool. Natural mosquito control!
Oh- and a wonderful update! Our nephew, who was in neo-natal intensive care, is doing great! I know everyone's thoughts and prayers helped, so thank you to all those who were so caring. He's a tough little guy, and a real cutie, too!