Weather: Cloudy and damp after a hard rain overnight. 42 degrees at 8:30 and I don't think the temperature is going to budge too much over the course of the day.
At the feeder: We're late in getting our feeders set up this year, but Katydid managed to clean and fill most of them a few days ago. We finally hung a collapsible feeder that holds 5 lbs of sunflower seeds. The birds love it. Right now I can count at least 6 goldfinches clinging just to the sides I can see. A downy woodpecker flew away a few seconds ago, and yesterday we had a female cardinal. The chickadees have also been out in force, 5 or 6 at a time, and our tufted titmice are back as well. We need to get our suet feeders set up for the woodpeckers now.
In the garden: In spite of it being November, we are still eating from the garden a little. Well, brussels sprouts actually.
Here's what the plants look like "in the field".
And on the stalk. When we went to the farm store last week, I was pleased to see that our brussel sprouts compared very favorably to theirs. In fact, ours looked better. (Ok, shameless bragging, but it was such a hard gardening year that I ought to be allowed to wallow in what few successes there were.)
(A brief feeder update... I need Katydid's binoculars... are those goldfinches or pine siskins out there???)
However, most of the garden is now planted to cover crop. I think Andy used crimson clover, which stands up to our winters pretty well. In the summer, the crop of choice is buckwheat, which he mows when it flowers so that it doesn't go to seed and become a weed. We rotate our beds and try to leave some fallow every year. After four years of cover cropping, adding compost, and 2 seasons of chickens, the soil has become a lot softer and easier to work. (Not now, of course. The ground freezes a little overnight, then thaws every morning so it's always a little muddy.) The cover crop comes most in handy in the spring time when the snowmelt comes rushing down the hill. Having a cover crop down instead of exposing bare dirt helps to retain our soil.
Or mint. This is my own fault. In desperation, because bugs and everything else were ruining my squash plants, I set out a chocolate mint plant beside them. Now the plant itself is nowhere to be found, but I discovered this healthy specimen about 10 feet away in a different bed.
In the pantry:
- 2 pie pumpkins, which I will try to bake this weekend for pumpkin pie
- half an already baked pumpkin, which I will turn into pumpkin custard tonight (technically this is in the refrigerator)
- 6 Delicata squash
- All the Walla Walla onions have started to sprout. They're not keepers. The Cippolini onions are fine, though.
- A 5 gallon bucket of potatoes 3/4 full, mostly Yukon Gold, which we're eating through.
- a half-bushel box of sweet potatoes from the farm store
This is how I bake pumpkin and winter squash: with butter and maple syrup. The butter and maple syrup form the stickiest candy ever on the bottom of the pan. So it's important to spoon that up while it's still so hot that you burn your tongue on the spoon as you lean over the stove. Not that I would ever do such a thing, of course.
In the coop:
But the ones in my freezer make really, really good chicken soup.
Using heritage breed chickens for meat was kind of a toss-up. On the one hand, they were all small, the biggest not quite 5 lbs, and they took a long time just to get to that weight. On the other hand, the taste is so much better even than the Cornish x Rock broilers raised on pasture. The meat is firmer (probably because our chickens were free-range, not raised in chicken tractors, and breeds that were not bred to sit by the feeder and eat), the dark meat darker, and just in general, more flavorful. But because it took so long to get them to butchering weight (such as it was), I'm not sure it was economical, and it was a lot of work.
If you're keeping track at home, we used White Rocks and Delawares. The Delawares were, in general, nicer than the White Rocks, which even Katydid looked forward to eating.
The turkeys turned out a little better in the weight department -- or at least the Naragansetts did. They were butchered at the beginning of the week and are currently all jammed into the freezer ( all 6 of them.) Everyone is a little sad that the turkeys are gone, I think, which was not the case with the meat chickens. The Naragansett tom dressed out at 17 lbs, so he will be our Thanksgiving turkey. Will we raise turkeys again? I don't know. The learning curve is pretty steep with turkeys. They break your heart the way they die as poults, then they get interesting and curious personalities and the thought of eating them does not make you happy, and if you really want to pasture them, you have to clip their wings or they will fly 20 feet up in the trees at night or disappear with the wild turkeys. But heritage turkeys are so much more beautiful and impressive than the typical Broad-Breasted White. So -- I don't know. I think we are going to take an animal breather next summer and just worry about the 23 laying hens we've got right now.
None of which are really laying at this point, however. The old hens are moulting and should probably be turned into stewing hens, but they have all been named. (Don't name your chickens.) The new hens are not laying yet, or are laying in some incredibly out of the way spot I haven't discovered yet. I've been buying "free-range" eggs to make up the difference, but their idea of "free-range" and my idea of "free-range" are obviously different: