Veggie of the Week

Photo Aug 24, 5 15 32 PM

The Purple Pear tomato is underneath that bright red one. It has a green tinge towards the top.

This week, for vegetable of the week, I have chosen the Purple Pear tomato. Like all of my plants, I ordered my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co., but these ones are special. Because I ordered these seeds about four years ago, when I began my heirloom vegetable garden. My first year, I didn’t even know what “heirloom” was. But when I stumbled upon heirloom tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, swiss chard, kale, etc.. at the farmers’ market, I fell in love. I had to grow them. So that year, instead of buying tomato starts from the garden center, I bought a few paper packets of seeds that came in the mail encased in bubble wrap. And one of these glossy packages was the Purple Pear tomato. They had excellent production the first year they grew. I got countless amounts of these reddish-greenish fruits.

But Fall came, as it often does, putting an end to my garden’s harvest. The left over, frost kissed, and very withered tomatoes soon fell off their vine, into the soil. The soil got covered in three feet of snow for a few months, and then turned over once more in the spring. In late May, I noticed green tomato plants poking their heads up through the ground. I never thought they’d flourish, but they did.

Next year, the cycle continued.

And again.

And again.

It took four years for this little tomato to slow down in production. Some disease took all of my tomato crops, making the stems wither and die, and rotting unripened fruit. And I STILL got a pretty good harvest. Two baskets worth.

I think this vegetable certainly deserves the title of Vegetable of the Week. But I won’t be letting the fifth generation grow next year. I need to get rid of that disease!

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A New Lonely Lifestyle

You’re probably wondering what the heck I mean by that post title. Lonely? New lifestyle? Huh?

Don’t worry, it’s just me being a little dramatic again. Two days ago we dropped my sister off at college for her first semester. She and I are very close, especially because we shared a room from the moment I was born. I told her most of my problems, and she listened and gave me advice. I’d bake her cookies, or muffins, and she’d drive me to a coffee shop. We always watched different shows together, binge watching them over our frozen pizza and iced tea. This summer we spent just about every day together, and suddenly she is ripped from my life completely. Gone, meeting new people in a strange environment, sharing a room with someone else. Everyone tells me “She’ll be a different person when she gets back, it’s amazing the changes that happen!” as if it’s a good thing. As if I would want her to be anything other than what I know her to be.

So when I’m sad about her leaving for college, I’m sad for myself. Because no one is going to bring me to the coffee shop anymore. No one is going to listen to me the way she does. No one is going to bicker with me about who has to turn the lights off at night. No one is going to share the cult TV shows on Netflix with me. When I look across the room, her bed sheets are stripped off, leaving an exposed mattress. Empty, forlorn.

I resolved myself as we drove away from her that afternoon that I would bury myself in whatever I could. Gardening. Work. Perhaps I’d take up jogging. Yoga? Anything to keep my mind off of that fact that she isn’t here. My voice is rusty from not talking all day.

On the topic of work, I trained with the animals on Wednesday. I got there, and the person training me showed me to the wheel barrow, shovel, and rake. He told me to clean up the straw in each of the stalls. I did, and I’m pretty sure I have never seen so much feces in my entire life. In one pen, the alpacas (two shaggy, spitting beasts) live with three friendly little horned goats. In another, a mother goat lives with her kid. In another pen, three Nigerian Dwarf does live together. A third pen has a doe and two adorable twin kids with black fur. Another contains multiple hens and a rooster. Another has ducks. The list continues, but I assume you’re probably done hearing about it.

Anyways, everything went swimmingly until I reached a pen with two brown, huge, Nubian does. I walked in, like I had countless times before, and rolled the wheel barrow to their little hut. The two goats bounded away from me, and only came close enough to sniff my hand. That was okay with me, as I was extremely tired, and to the point of gagging with the smell of goat urine in my nose. I continued shoveling the spoiled hay into the wheel barrow, every once in a while spotting a mischievous goat head peering around the corner at me. A few minutes later, I heard a rattling noise. Familiar with antics of goats, I dropped my rake and ran outside to see a flash of brown fur pass by outside of the fence. Swearing, I undid the gate, accidentally letting the other goat out. They trotted around me, running away whenever I walked near them. Their amber goat eyes gleaming with amusement. I told the person who was training me what happened, and we managed to herd them back into their pen after 40 minutes of stressful scrambling. Not the best first day.

I also had another day of ice cream training as well. Thursday was my final day of training, and I do the real thing tomorrow. I got the text for my hours as I made muffins this morning (they were blueberry lime and absolutely delicious). I’m extremely nervous for various reasons.

  • I can’t make an ice cream cone to save my life
  • I don’t really remember anything I learned because it was so much to process
  • I don’t know who I’ll be working with- I’m not really good at meeting new people

I’m sure there’s more, I just can’t think of it. You may have noticed, I have a terrible memory.

Tired Feet

Today was my first day on my first job. Well, I wasn’t paid for today, and won’t be for tomorrow or the next day because I’m training, but it was essentially what I’ll be doing when I do get paid. Anyways, I stayed there for four hours following around the girl who was training me. Lots of destroyed ice cream cones, and minutes, later I was finally released from the constant cacophony of humming refrigerators. I limped home in my old flats, and lay on the couch. I think wearing poorly supported flats when I knew I was going to be standing four hours straight on concrete was a bad choice. 

Oh, I’m such a lazy teenager. You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now. Don’t feel bad. So are my lower back and feet arches. 

An hour ago I gave the chickens their favorite part of the day. Free range time! I let them run/fly/strut while I kept an eye out for the many hawks and house cats that frequent my yard. I even saw a huge bald eagle yesterday, swooping over the house. It was a beautiful, menacing sight. 

I’ve really thought about my dilemma from my last post, about where to get my new chickens. I think I’m going to go with the local chickens, and hope for the best. I love Easter Eggers (she said they were Ameracaunas, but I think she means Easter Eggers. Ameracaunas are a very rare, expensive breed that lays blue eggs, whereas Easter Eggers are a cross between Ameracaunas and something else, and thus are for more common and less expensive). It doesn’t matter, anyways. The fact is, traveling two hours with chickens when I can travel five minutes is just impractical. Or, at least that’s what I’ve convinced myself.

 

Tomorrow is Day 2 of training. I’ll get to the farm at 7 and help another worker with the feeding/cleaning. I’m hoping it will go okay… Its hard not to feel nervous, as silly as it sounds. 

I’ll let you know how it went tomorrow! 

Decisions, Decisions

The job interview went wonderfully! I walked down to the Market, strolled in, and she greeted me right away. She handed me a form where I wrote my name, references, my address, phone number, etc… Then she talked as if I had already gotten the job! She said that I could work a day or two during the week with the animals, and then serve ice cream and work with the cash register on the weekend. Plus, I have free access whenever I want to go and bond with the animals. So exciting! But after leaving, I had a pretty big decision to make. At least big from my tiny perspective. 

The fact is, I need more chickens. Not only does Mary need a break from all Edith’s attentions, but I need more than just three eggs a week. That part is clear at least. But where to get them from?

On BYC, (BackyardChickens.com) I’ve been conversing all summer with a woman two hours away with 6 or seven Faverolles chickens. I mentioned this in a previous post, but I’ll remind you guys. This type of chicken is so darn cute! I was going to pick them up some time this week. Plus, they are already laying, or very close to it! 

But yesterday at the job interview thing, my new manager offered me pick of any of her chickens. She has Easter Eggers, Buff Brahmas, Rhode Island Reds, and New Hampshires all at around the same age as mine. They’re running around at her house as we speak, and she’d have to catch them at night when they return to their coop. Plus, she is offering them at half the price of the woman two hours away, just as a kind gesture towards me. 

Sorry, but I’m just going to use this to organize my thoughts-

The pros with the woman with the Faverolles:

  1. They are adorable!
  2. They are basically already laying
  3. I’d have to get them THIS WEEK!

The pros with my manager’s deal

  1. They are cheaper
  2. I could get the kind of chicken I wanted in the first place (easter egger)
  3. They are local, I wouldn’t have to travel more than five minutes
  4. She made the offer out of kindness

I just don’t know what to do! To be honest, I’ll probably go with the local ones. I just feel bad bailing out with this nice lady I’ve been talking to all summer. 

Sigh. So that’s what I’m dealing with today. What do you think I should do?  

 

 

 

Farmer’s Market

Today my mother, sister and I got up early and headed into town. We arrived at a coffee shop, ordered our mocha and vanilla lattes, and sat back to enjoy each other’s company. After the bottoms of our cups were visible, we ventured outdoors, passed a row of teenagers smoking goodness knows what. Whatever it was, it smelled strangely like the inside of an office I had been in. Hmm. 

But that’s besides the point. We passed through a little alley way, and walked down the side walk and across the common. There we found the farmer’s market, a long line of farm stands full of heirloom tomatoes, carrots of every color, swiss chard, lettuce, blueberry muffins, watermelon, and any vegetable you can think of. Well, not any vegetable. I love the abundance, the colors, the smells. And every single bit of it is grown right here. The farmers always look so jolly, and everyone there is united in the belief of local, wholesome foods. Sure its expensive, but its worth every penny. 

Photo Aug 16, 11 52 52 AM

 

Today is a big day for me. At 2 o’clock I’m walking down to the local farm stand/store to ask for a job taking care of their animals. I’m hoping to clean stalls, care for the chickens, goats, donkeys, and cows, do some feeding and watering, and all the other chores that they involve. Its a win-win-win-win situation! I’ll get a little bit of money, learn the ropes of farming, spend time with animals that I love, and have something nice on my college application in a few years. I’ll probably have to do some cashiering and store responsibilities, but I think that the pros are just to good to pass up! My stomach is in knots though, and the anxiety is a persistent feeling that won’t go away. I’m so doubtful of myself- who would want a wimpy teenage girl as their farm helper? I’m worried they won’t take me seriously (though I’ve met the two farmers, and they are really kind). Perhaps these worries are completely unfounded. Either way, I need to learn to deal with situations like this. 

Wish me luck!

The Things I Do For Chickens

Yesterday I decided to let my chickens out. I’m talking, OUT OUT. As in, opening up their gate and letting them roam, out. Of course, being the worry-wort I am, I only gave them fourty-ish minutes of supervised time. I simply swung open their wire fence, clipped it back, and sat in the grass. They stared at me with incredulous eyes, peering around the corner. Then, all at once, they sprinted towards me, their little chickie legs moving back forth in a hilarious strut. Then, I sat back and enjoyed the chicken TV. I had brought some cracked corn and dried mealworms with me in a little bag to see if I could get them to come when I called, so after thirty minutes or so I took that out and began my “training’.

I must have looked positively ridiculous to my neighbors, who live right next to us. I held out the plastic baggie, tapping the side rapidly, and called

“Heeeeeeeere chook chook chook chook chook!”, followed by a whistle, and a “Mary! Edith!”. Mary was much more willing to greet me, showing her eagerness by breaking into a fast sprint across the lawn. She skidded to a halt in front of my gardening boots and tried to snatch the bag from my hands. I immediately rewarded her with a handful of corn. Edith was far less interested, so when he wandered off into the adjacent yard in pursuit of an unfortunate moth, I had to snatch him and carry him off. I suppose I should find a treat that he absolutely loves, like Mary loves corn. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know! 

On a different topic, I think I’m adding more chickens to my tiny little flock. A woman I met on BackyardChickens.com (an awesome forum full of chicken-adicts and helpful advice givers) contacted me offering a few of her Faverolles pullets, which are now 18 weeks old. This is tremendously exciting! But there are some problems. Well, a lot of problems. One of them being the fact that she lives two hours away. Driving two hours with a car full of chickens does not sound that great, at least for me anyways. The second, more pressing, issue is that I have absolutely nowhere to perform a quarantine. The big coop isn’t finished (and won’t be for a while), and the A-Frame is the only chicken shelter I have on hand. So I’ll have to take my chances, and pray that no diseases are brought into the flock. But the good part is-

1. I’ll have more chickens (always a plus)

2. They might be laying when I get them!!!!!!

3. I love the look of Faverolles- they’re so cute!

4. Mary will have some female friends, and they’ll divert Edith’s attention from her

So hopefully all will go well, and I’ll have a happy, healthy flock. I think luck is a big part in animal raising and gardening. Well, I’m going to let my chickens out again and see what happens!

 

Veggie of the Week!!

I think I’m going to start something new- 

VEGGIE OF THE WEEK!

Every week, I believe I will feature a vegetable, or fruit, from my garden. I know you’re holding your breath, so I won’t keep you in suspense a moment longer…

 

This weeks veggie is………..

BEANS! 

This particular variety is a bush bean called Dragon Tongue. I ordered the seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company this Spring, and direct sowed them into the ground, two plants for every 1 ft x 1 ft square. Apparently they are Dutch, and have gorgeous purple streaks on top of a light green. The purple disappears when they are cooked, leaving plain old greenish-yellow instead, but they are a true beauty beforehand. They’re quite productive too! They began producing about two weeks ago, and every week I get a whole bag full of them. On top of all this, they are absolutely delicious with some butter and garlic. 

 

 

 

A Rainy, Bittersweet Day

Today we got a call from a man looking to buy Sybil. He had seen my CraigsList ad, and wanted to buy him for his son’s three hens. Ironically, he wanted a rooster to crow whenever something happened so he could run out and protect him. All day long rain has poured to the earth, making everything soaking wet. When the man, named Oscar, arrived in his shiny blue pickup truck, my father and I walked out to the driveway to meet him.

My stomach was in knots, tears were hiding behind the surface of my eyes, and I was shaking (not just from the cold). Maybe I’m a bit “sensitive” but I LOVE my animals, and giving one away was no easy task. He inspected the strutting little fellow with us, asking questions like “What do you feed him? Are pine shavings better than hay? Does he always have constant access to feed and water?”. I answered the questions competently enough, and was able to keep my voice steady.

Before he arrived I had already set up a cardboard box full of pine shavings, with a sprinkle of scratch and meal worms, so I caught him and brought him over to that. He shook a little in my hands, and I hope it was just from the dampness. He waved his head, trying to get a good look at his siblings, but didn’t squawk all that much. I kissed his head, whispered “I love you” and plopped him in the box. When he tried to fly away my father grabbed him and put him back. 

I shut the lid, and turned away as my father handed the box to Oscar. He smiled, graciously taking the box, and generously offered us a visit to his home to check on him. I smiled back, and said we’d love to, and walked into the house as he backed down the driveway, with Sybil in the backseat. 

After this, I walked to my room, mumbling something about changing into sweatpants and cried, and cried. 

I know, I’m dramatic. It’s the way I am. When my tears dried however, and the rain let up, I began to feel much better. Sybil had, so far, avoided butchery. He is going to a good home, with green grass, hens of his own, and the freedom to crow his heart out. Much more than I would ever be able to give him. 

Disaster Strikes!

Yesterday I strolled into the run, feeling extraordinarily sullen about the recent rooster events. I wanted to hug a chicken. After I got my chicken therapy, I noticed that I had dropped my hair tie on the ground. I went to pick it up, but Edith got there first and began sprinting around with it, the other two in hot pursuit. Then Sybil grabbed it, tug of war ensued, and then Sybil ran away with it. Then it went to Mary. They weaved around the coop, running up the ramps, dodging my legs until I finally grabbed it. Then they congregated around my legs, clucking, begging for it to be returned. Maybe it was their cute little chicken clucks, maybe it was my need to be happy, or maybe it was simple, sheer stupidity. I gave it back to them. After all, how could they swallow a hair tie?! 

My laughter was immediately stopped when I saw Mary with it in the corner. The other two were watching. I saw her tip her head up. I shouted “NO!!” and lunged for her, reaching her just as it slipped down her throat. I snatch her beak, prying it open, and peering inside. She starts squawking in alarm, and Edith flies at my face, protecting his hen. 

And now I wait. I wait to see if I just killed my favorite chicken. Its been 24 hours, and she’s been acting fine. My fingers are crossed. 

Photo Aug 01, 12 56 35 PMhttps://3lilhens.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/photo-aug-01-12-56-35-pm.jpg

One little hen…

I write today with a very heavy heart. My writings are punctuated by a loud, melodious calling from the coop outside. A rooster’s crow. Little Sybil, now tentatively named Sid, has been crowing for a week or two now. All. Day. Long. So our little “covert” egg operation has been discovered by, well, pretty much everyone. But at least I have two other hens, right? RIGHT!?

Nope. Today, as we dropped into the car Edith howled to the sound of the motor. Well, he tried to crow (he sort of failed, but I don’t want to hurt his pride or anything like that).

Two out of five died. Two out of five are roosters. One hen. Why me? The world seems to be working against me for the moment. I’m just a teenager that wanted to have a few pet chickens and a garden. But now I am forced to make decisions that will eventually result in the death of two of my beloved, healthy, happy, and trusting pets. I have contacted sanctuaries, fellow chicken farmers, stared at pages and pages of CraigsList. The answer is always the same. No one wants a rooster. Everyone wants fresh chicken meat.

So I stare at my lovely little roosters, Edith resting on my lap as I stroke her feathers. His feathers. And I think of what it will all come down to. I prepare myself to be the heartless sacrificer that I am supposed to be, defending the ears of my annoyed neighbors and family. Edith stares right back, loving, happy, trusting.