Homesteading is all about decisions. What to grow, who to eat, how to provide, why do something a certain way, and when do you call it a day.
As much as I would love to say that these decisions are easy, many of them are not, especially when it comes to the animals on the homestead. In the picture above is our White Lady, Alice by name. She is a Leghorn/Aracuana mix who is sneaking up on five years old. Alice has had a rough life. She was stolen by neighbourhood hooligans and brought back by their sisters. She has been eggbound previously. She lost her sister to a coyote attack.
Unfortunately, age and life seem to be sneaking up on her. She has stopped laying entirely. At first we thought maybe Alice was eggbound, as that’s been an issue for her before. When a hen is eggbound everything slows to a stop – eating, defecating, and laying. The egg does what the name of the issue says: it binds everything up. If not caught, it is fatal. Some hens can have repetitious issues with eggbinding and then the homesteader needs to make the decision to cull or not. Alice is not eggbound. We’ve checked that and it’s not the culprit to her illness.
Neither does it seems to be respiratory nor diet.
No lash eggs have been found in the coop, either.
So….what to do? Without a clean cut diagnosis, there are only two options. We can either cull poor Alice or hospice her to the end. We’ve never had to cull a chicken from our flock as nature and predators normally do it for us, and I’ll be honest and say I hope that ends up being the case here. For the meanwhile, we’ll hospice Alice. She’ll continue to roam and room with her flock as we keep an extra sharp eye on her.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated in here. As spring starts picking up speed, things are happening fast and furious. Chicks are being born, seedlings are being planted, ideas are being hatched, and dreams are being shattered – all at once, it seems.
Carrot is most certainly a rooster. Given his attitude, he’ll be good eating. Am I sorry I spent so much time rehabbing him? Not at all. Dealing with his unabsorbed yolksac issue and subsequent infection was a perfect learning experience. He’s healthy, happy, and thriving. Unfortunately he’s a rooster and an ass to boot. He’ll make a great stew.
One of our current roosters, Amp, is in the freezer. He was getting nasty and the girls were getting bare baked having two boys. By the end of the summer, Gucy will be joining him. As fantastic of a job as these two boys have done, they don’t really fit the bill as to what we want to eventually have for traits in our flock. Selecting and culling in this manner is tough, but will pay out in the long run.
Seedlings are kinda, not really started. Having two kids to keep me busy has been difficult. I forgot how trecherous planning a garden while having an infant could be. Thankfully we’re close to being past the last frost date and it won’t matter, seeds can go straight into the ground. Unfortunately, there’s still some I need to start sooner than later.
The wood pile has diminished substantially. It’s time to think of next year. That’s another fear that looms on the horizon.
I have to be honest, there was a time I was scared to death of birds. I never knew this fear existed until a lovebird my then boyfriend (now hubster) adopted had lit out of her cage and was dive bombing me in our bedroom. I freaked. I ran out of the room bawling my eyes out, shaking, and calling him to come home. Of course he couldn’t come home, he was at work. Of course I knew no one who knew birds well enough to come to my rescue. Of course I was on my own. On my own I can deal with, but this sudden new fear of birds? That was something I couldn’t deal with.
Fast forward twelve years and now I’m the one in charge of chasing chickens, pinning down pissy roosters, tending to torn combs, popping feather pimples, and binding busted beaks. I keep track of who is laying, who is holding out, and who is hiding the eggs. I pick up, hug, kiss, and love on chickens every day. I never thought that I would be able to overcome that fear of avian animals until we decided to start our homestead. Every now and then it just hits me how far I have come and I can’t help but be amazed at myself.
One of the many things that about 99.99% of my generation has no idea how to do is joint chicken. Granted, we’re also the same generation that has no idea that you can actually grow your own food…in your own yard…in dirt. So I suppose it should be no surprise that we don’t know how to joint chicken.
I took a stab at it today. I owe a wonderful first time experience to Gordon Ramsey’s YouTube how-to. While I had a hard time party gout the breasts, eventually giving up and just deboning the meat, I was planning on making nuggets anyway. Here’s hoping next time goes even smoother.
Companion planting is a very natural concept. If you look out in the wild, you never see one form of plant by its lonesome. Daisies, black-eyed Susans, clover, and buttercups amongst others interweave into these communities of flowers. Maples, ash, willow, and pine mingle through the woods, rarely sanding aloof from one another. The plants that you do see by themselves look alone, deprived, and normally have a harder go at it than those mixed into a society of flora and fauna. Companion planting takes this idea that plants should not be segregated from one another and works towards growing plants with one another in a helpful, semi-self-sustainable type of gardening.
We’ve used companion planting – to a different degree each year – in all of our gardens. Sometimes companion planting works out well, other times, not so much. For example, it’s been a few years, but we did try a three Sister’s Garden of pumpkins, corn, and beans together. We didn’t have much luck that time, but I’m wondering if it was mostly “user error” as I didn’t look into the length of the growing season that the variety of corn I picked needed. (In Maine we have a very short growing season, so this is something to take into consideration.) I’m debating about trying the Three Sister’s Garden again this year now that I’ve had more time to reflect on what went wrong with that previous attempt.
Many people who now have gardens from our generation don’t know about the idea of companion planting simply because they grew up off from their parents and grandparents victory-style gardens that were popular starting in WWII. These gardens were functional and yet very carefully sculpted to fit the post-card time era that they were in. Companion planting went by the wayside at this time, but is now beginning to make a resurgence, specifically for those of us that have limited land space and prefer to do things without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
Below is a chart that I made for a post a few years ago talking about companion planting. It’s very basic and only includes the basic gardening selections, but it gives a great starting point for those new to the practice!
|What we’re planting…
||What they can be companions with…
||Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi , bush bean, carrot, celery, corn, dead nettle, flax, horseradish, marigold, peas, petunia, and onion.
||Dill, beets, broccoli, bush beans, pole beans, carrots, cucumbers, onion, radish and strawberries.* Lettuce needs to be kept away from cabbage as it will deter growth and mess with the flavor.
||Corn, bush beans, bole beans, carrots, celery, chicory, corn, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, early potato, radish, spinach, strawberry, sweet pepper, tomatoes and turnips.
||Carrots, celery, chards, corn, eggplant, peas, potatoes, brassicas, beets, radish, strawberry and cucumbers.
||Amaranth, beans, cucumber, white geranium, lamb’s quarters, melons, morning glory, parsley, peanuts, peas, potato, pumpkin, soybeans, squash and sunflower.
||Corn, melon, squash, marigolds, and oregano.
||Asparagus, basil, bean, carrots, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, head lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pea, pepper, marigold, pot marigold and sow thistle.
||Corn, peas, beets, radishes, carrots, radishes, and dill.