“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” Stanley Horowitz
The Autumnal Equinox is today, this marks the first day of fall for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. Fall may be my favorite time of year. The heat (and hard work) of summer gives way to cool evenings and bountiful harvests.
We live just a little over a half mile from the only major river in our area. This adds some real ambiance to the outdoors around our place in the fall. Starting in early September and lasting until November we have flocks of geese flying over our place. You know fall has arrived here when you walk outside and hear the sounds of geese making their way south. It’s an extra treat for us because they are usually flying very low on approach to or just leaving the river.
The first day of fall also marks an important time for the winter gardener. Only 6 more weeks of 10 hour days. It’s time to take extra care of our cold frame and hoop house crops as they only have a short time left to size up for the winter.
Just like that, after months of waiting now we have two hens laying. The kids checked the coop this afternoon and found 2 eggs that weren’t there this morning when I checked!!
Egg’s for Breakfast tomorrow for sure!!
Finally we got 4 eggs in three days!!
After what seems like years of waiting (but what was really only months) we got our first egg on Sunday. Our hens are 25 weeks old so it’s about time!
We found it tucked up under the nesting boxes (not in them) at about 3 pm. It wasn’t there at 10 am when we checked so it was laid sometime between. We are pretty sure it came from the hen we call red. We didn’t really name our hens we just call them by the color of the band on their leg. She is the largest hen of the bunch and also was the first to grow a comb and she seemed pretty pleased with herself all day.
We are pretty sure this egg came from the hen on the top right of this picture
Now were not sure we can eat this egg, we’ve been waiting so long that it seems anticlimactic. It’s very small (as all first eggs are) and all we can seem to do with it is take pictures!! We’ll save it for tomorrow and hopefully scramble it up with a friend or two for breakfast.
This week was all about melons around Stoney Acres. Because of our cold wet spring our water melons and cantaloupe have been very slow to ripen. We are a full month behind, it is usually mid August when we are swamped with this many melons. At least the weather stayed warm enough for them to ripen.
You can see the last Sugar Baby watermelon in this picture. It was really small but went perfectly with breakfast AFTER the kids went to school and it was just the two of us. The cantaloupe are “Heart of Gold” it’s a nice sweet melon although not as big as some we have grown.
Crimson Sweet melons did well for us this year. The bulk of our watermelons were this variriety. These are the last of the bigger ones. There are still 3 very small ones ripening. For the week we harvested a total of 5 water melons and 5 cantaloupe.
After taking most of last week off, the tomatoes were back at it again this week. We got a total of 15 lbs for the week, enough to can 4 more quarts. We also got a few peppers.
Our one lone head of cabbage that survived the slug and snail attack was ready this week. We added some carrots and sauce and made it into a very tasty cold slaw.
We had a few more summer squash this week, most of these went to my sister for a great batch of Ratatouille.
The raspberries are finally coming on strong. We got a couple pickings this size this week. Only a few made it to the freezer for winter storage as it’s hard to resist eating all of these early pickings.
We have two kale plants that have been putting on a lot of growth as the weather has cooled a bit the last two weeks. This kale and New Zealand spinach were added to a fantastic pasta dish my wife makes.
And finally we had the last big pickings of strawberries for the year. We had one picking that totaled about 2 pounds and this little one on Saturday. We will continue to see strawberries as late as November 1st but not nearly as many as in the summer.
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”– Abraham Lincoln
The last of the summer roses are blooming here at Stoney Acres. Just a few left, fall is coming soon. We woke up this morning to temperatures in the low 50’s. Frost can’t be too far off!
We love to eat corn on the cob around here but we really don’t have the space to grow much ourselves. We have tried several experiments over the years none very successful.
This year we tried two small 4×8 patches and we also tried planting in hills in a flower bed. We did ok but we really don’t get more than a few meals worth.
So we rely on the local farmers market to provide the bulk of our corn. There is a farm that sells at the market that has pesticide free corn for a very good price. To top it off the farm is less than 2 miles from our house so we feel good about supporting a local farmer.
We buy corn from the market 3 or 4 times a year. We usually get a dozen to eat and a dozen to save for winter. We have tried the more traditional methods of preserving corn by cutting the corn off the cob and freezing it, but we found that to be a huge pain in the neck and our kids wouldn’t eat it. Then one day we were walking though the supermarket and we saw frozen corn on the cob. We thought, “why can’t we do that?” So a few Google searches later we found instructions and we were off and running. We have also found instructions for freezing corn in the Ball Blue book and that is the method we use now. I would recommend that before you start preserving food that you get a current reference book that will give you good instructions.
The method is really easy. Just blanch the shucked and washed corn for 8 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the cobs and throw it in the freezer in a freezer bag or other container. Then enjoy it in January when the snow is 10 inches deep. Okay I’ll admit it’s not as good as fresh picked corn in summer time but it really isn’t bad and it makes for a good change from the salads we eat most of the time from the winter garden.
The Chickens arrived here at Stoney Acres on Memorial Day May 30th. Here’s a picture of them the day they arrived.
First Day Home
We decided to not try and tackle raising chicks with our first flock of hens. So we bought these 9 week old pullets from a local guy who raises a bunch of chickens. When it is time to replace this flock, I’m sure we will give raising day old chicks a try. This year between getting a coop build and taking on animals for the first time in a while we just thought pullets would be the easier course.
We have 6 hen’s all of them red stars or red comets. We chose this breed for a few reasons: First they are a sex-linked hybrid which means we were sure to get all hens. Second they are a relatively docile breed and fairly easy to handle. Third they are a good producer of large brown eggs. Most red stars start producing eggs between 18 to 22 weeks.
Flash forward three and a half months and our hens are now 24 weeks old; they look great, have adapted well and are doing a great job of keeping the bugs down, eating all our garden scraps and producing lots of material for the compost bin. There’s just one problem; NO EGGS!! The dang free loaders!!!
Big bright red combs are a sign that hens are getting ready to lay. If you look closely at this picture you will see two have nice combs, two are coming along and two still look like pre schoolers. I have talked with a couple of long time chicken raisers and they assure me that I just need to be patient, the eggs will come. AUGHHH!!! That’s easy for them to say, they are already getting eggs!!!
As you can tell from my ranting I’m not a very patient person. I’m just a little excited to get eggs. Over all the hens have fit well into our life style. They give the kids some animals to take care of so they are learning responsibility. We have really enjoyed having them around. We try to let them out of the coop for at least an hour each evening and we have a blast watching them run around the yard chasing bugs and each other. Now if we can just get some eggs!!