Ms. Brahmin

Having never had a bantam chicken before, I did not realize: this one is a hen! I thought it was just a young roo, as most of the others so obviously were, but experienced banty owners assure me it is a hen, one that was "broody" recently (hatching a brood of chicks) by evidence of her plucked tummy which creates more heat for the eggs. No wonder she is so fat! She is quite friendly and adventurous. Last night, she let me give her a bath with no fuss whatsoever. She appears to be a cross between an Old English Game Hen (Bantam size) and a Bantam Buff Brahma. Looking forward to seeing some wee eggs next month sometime! Chickens don't like to lay when they are stressed or broody, so I don't expect to see any for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, she is eating and drinking and acclimating nicely. She really wants to go out with the other chickens to free-range, but it's too soon. Maybe next week...

Blueberry Preserves & Green Bean Woes

I'm very disappointed in my pole bean teepee. My plants all grew beans on them (I pulled them off yesterday and put them in a quiche) but they are only 1 foot tall!! We have had a month of nothing but rain, almost no sun, which I believe is the culprit. I am hoping once the sun comes out they will take off -- and still produce beans??? They are blue lake pole beans which are supposed to be a"renowned pole bean for its stringless, tender pods. 15 cm long. Early. Nice fresh or for freezing and canning. One of the best. 60-65 days." HAH! As if. These are closer to three months old. Does anyone have any idea what might have gone wrong other than the weather? Ah well. The fava bean plants are doing better -- two feet tall, and full of flowers.

Yesterday I made blueberry preserves -- they were on a major sale at the market, 4 pints for $5, so each jar cost around $1.00. These are very easy to make, and take about 1 hour.

* Blueberry Preserves *
6 cups washed blueberries
2.5 tsp fresh lemon juice (or Apple Cider Vinegar)
3 Cups Sugar
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp ground nutmeg
1 Vanilla Pod, opened and scrapped into the pot

Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, cook to gell point. Sir often.
Ladle into hot, prepared half-pint jars. Leave 1/4 inch head space and cap with hot lids. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.


Our New Rooster

Yesterday we were on our way home from a family party when we saw a woman and her daughters by her car, with a flock of chickens grazing in the dirt lot by a hiking trail. We turned around, thinking maybe she needed, but she was gone when we got there -- and she'd left behind what we believe were about 10 bantam roos, only one of which was a full adult (and gorgeous!) Well, we don't have a rooster right now, and our girls free range so we were happy to wrangle up whoever wanted to come home with us -- but they were so freaked out that even with the lure of goldfish crackers we only managed to catch one. The rest ran into the woods. They seemed to follow the adult, so hopefully this flock of men will enjoy their freedom... I feel sorry for the chickens, but really, ours do OK staying out overnight (sometimes they decide not to come home for the night) and a bunch of roosters will be safer than anything else... Roosters generally get eaten anyways, so at least these guys will have some freedom and fun before they pass on. I'm glad they have each other for company at least.
Anyhow -- they were all different breeds, many of them were quite pretty, and I think this one might be a buff brahma (?) It is about 9 inches tall, and FAT with lightly feathered feet. At this height and weight, I think it must be a bantam, but time will tell. It was one of the friendliest ones, looking for the food, and I directed my husband to focus on catching him after we couldn't get anyone else, since I always heard brahmas are very mellow roos...
For now we have him in a large cat carrier at night in the coop, and free in the run during the day while the other girls free-range, so they can slowly acclimate to each other. Fun times! Whether he is a brahma or not, we've decided to name him Brahmin.


Guest Blogger -- Aunty Ants

Today we have some guest bloggers, who apparently have A LOT to say! Please welcome Aunty Ants and her battalion of backup writers. Last night Aunty and her friends found my laptop where it always sits on the desk and have apparently decided that they adore it. I never knew there were quite so many nooks and crannies for them to hide. So far I have, ahem, "removed" at least 40 of them from the laptop, as they emerge from their hiding places every 30 seconds or so to run across the keyboard or screen.

The ants (41) on my property are just (42) are just crazy. They make nests anywhere. Under the towel by the dish drainer. In my potted plants. Under my potted plants. Next to my gardening books. Anywhere. People say to follow their trail, but there seem to be endless trails, and endless colonies, every year. I have done the dastardly deed and sprayed around the outside of my home. (43) No go! We have fogged the basement. Still no go! They enter from everywhere and anywhere, and mostly, it seems, just to get a drink of water from the sink and to be near me. They adore me, while I have less than friendly feelings towards them. Spearmint oil all over the home? Tried (44) it. Diatomaceous earth? Check. Traps? They won't go near them, none of them.

Ah well. I have learned to live with them, and they have learned not to go near my food stores (lest they provoke an all out war). But my computer? This is a new one. And no, I don't eat while I'm on the computer, so I don't know why they like it suddenly, unless they were cold last night... Grrrr... (45!)


Of Humans, Bees, and Stewardship

(Disclaimer: I admire beekeepers in general, and I adore honey for both its wonderful taste and healing properties. This is not a tirade against the bee industry at large, merely the idea that we always know better than the animals we are "keeping.")

We don't always know best. But we like to think we do. And we're not more important than anyone else. But it usually feels that way. We live in a world of fast-moving vehicles, deadlines, twitters and food-on-the-go. Most of us hurry around, thinking we should be at the front of the line, our just one car ahead. And nowhere is that attitude more prevalent and lamentable than our approach to the natural world and the animal kingdom.

We've all heard of "Colony Collapse Disorder," where bees are mysteriously disappearing from hives. No bodies have been found, in any of the cases, yet we have been led to believe that they must all be dying. I mean, what else would prevent them from returning to the hive. Myself, I believe that many bees are staging a coup, rebelling against the little white boxes where humans steal their honey and abuse their earnest, hard-work. At least, I imagine that is how bees must feel the day after the well-meaning beekeeper removes honeycomb and honey from their hive. Some bees, of course, are probably also falling prey to radio frequencies and pesticides. Who knows, maybe its the new digital tv signals... In CT, I have seen a profusion of honeybees on my properties in the last few years, and even a swarm that was looking for a new home. I welcomed them to partake in my flowering bounty, and invited them to make a home nearby in the forest a hundred feet away. No pesticides here, and no digital airwave or cell phone reception, either.

So...where is this all going? Well here is an article I just read that rubbed me the wrong way:

"A swarm of around 10,000 bees apparently got bored of flying themselves - so they settled on the wing of a plane instead.
The left wing of the plane, used for training at a flight school in Danvers, Massachusetts, became covered in the bees, forcing the owner of the flight centre to call the police.
The police then called in a bee removal expert, who used a special bee-removing vacuum cleaner to suck all the bees off the wing.

According to the bee remover, the bees may have found themselves on the plane's wing after the queen stopped to rest on it, and the other bees followed her to protect her." - as reported on metro.co.uk

Bee swarms do not stay in one place for a long time. They are traveling, looking for a new home. They will often temporarily land on a tree limb, side of a house or just about any location, while scout bees are looking for the best location to establish the newly formed colony. The owner of the flight center was not "forced" by anyone to call police, and the bee remover could have recommended some time for the bees to move on. But everyone had a job to do, and money to make. The school "had" to do their lessons for the day, and of course they are more important than some bees. They were bigger, and had more important things to do than allow 10,000 sentient beings rest a short while and continue on to their new home. Now, the renegade swarm has most likely been relocated into a human hive miles or even counties away from where they were planning to relocate, as happened last week in NY to a similar swarm resting outside a retail store which was relocated several hours away (by car).

Whatever happened to courtesy? Whatever happened to patience? Whatever happened to live and let live?

In the immortal, edifying words of Hannah Montana: "Whatever."