Posts Tagged ‘spring’

Spring Egg Olympics 2012

We have been in full swing with the incubators since the Easter chick rush, and we have been selling chicks almost as soon as they hatch these days. We have met some wonderful new chicken keepers and some really nice 4-H families this season, as well as repeat customers.

Here is the lineup that made our “Odd shape egg contest” finals this spring.

Top row is a normal size/shape standard egg.  Below that you can see some of the funny attempts our girls have made so far.  The bowling pin in the first row is my fave.  The big green oval at the bottom was a double yoker!  Yes, as you can see,  some of our hens have a great sense of humor!  Way to go gals!

The tradition of the Easter bunny

From the beginning of time spring has symbolized new life and rebirth. Eggs were an ancient symbol of fertility, as were rabbits and hares for having so many offspring in this season. The idea of an egg-laying bunny came to the United States somewhere around the 1500’s with the German immigrants in the Pennsylvania Dutch area. Their children were told the legend of “Osterhase”, an egg-laying hare who brought gifts of colored eggs to good children if the child made a “nest” of their caps or bonnets the night before. The first story was published in 1680 about a rabbit laying eggs and hiding them in a garden. The tradition of making “nests” for the rabbit soon followed. Eventually the nests made from caps and bonnets turned into baskets, and the eggs were replaced with candy and small treats.
So in the spirit of tradition, we brought the farm bunny, MacGyver, to St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ojai to play the part of “Osterhase” on Easter Sunday. He turned out to be a real trooper and the children and parents alike all loved him being part of the day. Even Father Jeff took a break from his busy day to enjoy a moment with the Easter bunny.

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Spring has sprung

… the grass has riz. I wonder where the flowers is?

The vernal, or spring equinox, is one of two times during the year when the length of day and the length of night are almost equal.  When this happens, the egg balancers and broom standers come out of the woodwork. As folklore would have it, this position of the sun and other planets on the equinoxes means that miraculous feats of balance can occur. True? Not! But two times a year, a few die-hards always try.

The vernal equinox occurs when the sun is positioned directly over the equator of our tilted Earth – at 1:14 a.m. EST on March 20th. The equinoxes and planetary alignments really have no physical effect on earthly objects. The whole egg balancing myth may have been started to fit into the springtime fertility theme, just like chicks and ducklings and baby bunnies at Easter. Nothing says springtime like fluffy little baby animals.

For me spring is very much like hope. It always comes anew every year, and brings with it the rebirth of the land. It starts off with silent messages, like the first bud breaking  in the vineyard, and the crocuses pushing their way up from the frozen ground. Then we we start to see the return of the butterflies and seasonal songbirds whose songs we have been craving all winter. Soon the fruit trees will blossom and the bees will come out from their winter quarters to revel in the splendor.  Everything that has been brown and weary will teem with new growth and be fresh and green once again with new leaf and flower.  The brooders and grow out pens that have stood empty all winter, will once again be habitats for new life born in the coming months, and we will count them all as blessings.

Yes, I am ready for spring this year, and even though I know it will still freeze for a few more weeks, I am happy to see it announce its official return on my calendar!

Daylight Savings Time and Ready for Spring

I have always liked the concept of daylight savings time, but when it actually comes around it always messes me up for a few days. First, I always have to remember the “spring forward, fall back” thing, to be able to remember which way to turn the clock. Then I have to fight with the VCR, microwave, clock in my dashboard and my cell phone- I am really bad with all things tech, so this is a problem for me every year. It always takes a few days for my body to adjust to the “extra” or “missing” hour-but I never did understand why they say we gain or lose an hour, when there are still 24 hours in a day. We did not “gain” an hour in our lives-if that really happened we could just give ourselves more hours in time and at some point I think it would cause some time warp in the universe. I guess it is just something that the government cooked up so we would not have to drive to work in the dark in the winter months when the days are shorter. Anyway, to me it just feels like jet lag, but without getting to go on vacation. I do like getting home and being able to get a couple of things done in the goat yard before it gets dark though.

I am ready for spring. We have had over 2 1/2 months of freezing temps every night and no rain (and remember, we get to complain because this is Southern California.) Everything has been brown and crunchy for a long time. I am starting to see little signs that spring is trying to peek out in a few places, hoping that the freeze is over. The last frost date for our area is April 9th – so we may still get hit with some low temps again, but it has been 38 degrees and above for the last 4 mornings in a row. So this gives me hope that the worst is already over. The plum tree has put out a timid row of blossoms and the mulberry tree has broken bud. I planted out some artichokes that we started in the greenhouse a few months back, and put down very heavy layers of mulch to protect them. I also put some rose clones into the ground that had been hardening off outside near the house, and have moved more from the greenhouse to the front garden to get them used to the outside temps. I have tomato starts that I am chomping at the bit to plant out but I know full well I will have to drag out the Wall-O-Waters and keep a close eye on them if I do.

I have been eying the boxes of seed packets on the kitchen shelves that I have earmarked for this planting season but I don’t want to jump the gun. I will not let myself be seduced by their glossy photos and promises of days to harvest. I know the ground is still too inhospitable to plant warm weather veggies, no matter how tempting it becomes. It will only end in heartbreak otherwise.

We are on the dark side of the moon cycle this week, so I will spend this week battling weeds, pruning the last of the frostbitten canes and branches and putting up bean poles and trellises.

The incubator is now full of eggs that are set to hatch the week before Easter and the fertility is up in all of the breeding pens now. I got the first turkey egg of the season yesterday so I am sure the other game birds will follow along soon. I have been keeping an eye on the nursery pen, and have my birthing kit cleaned up and organized, and a stack of clean towels at the ready.

Spring is always a crazy time on the farm, but I am ready!

Winter’s “Tween” Week

December 21st  brought us once again to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The good news is, from here on out the days will slowly start to get longer once again. This is that in-between week when we start to put away Christmas and look ahead to the new year. Christmas cards have stopped coming but the good news is now the spring seed catalogs are starting to fill the mailbox! All the beautiful winter scenes – snowmen, stockings hung by crackling fireplaces  – are now being replaced by glossy pages of colorful spring flowers and plump, ripe fruits and vegetables. Stirring our hearts and minds into that euphoric state of happiness that helps us cope with the now freezing tempetures outside. The nights have been well under 30 degrees for at least the last 2 ½  weeks now (and yes, I do get to complain because this is Southern California).

During the morning feeding I get to go crunching across the frozen grass and push my way through stiff cold gate hinges to be met by frozen hoses as I fill mangers and de-ice water buckets.  The tribe of goats stay tucked down in the thick straw inside the barn and they don’t even budge when I fill the feeders with fresh hay. Nikki (the LDG) is usually somewhere in the middle of the pile of goats, all keeping each other warm, and only just barely lifts her head and opens one eye when I peek in on the group. They all know their breakfast will be waiting for them when they decide to leave their warm nest and venture out into the morning. For now, they will sleep in until the sun crests the mountain and the day warms up a bit more. To be honest, I can get these jobs done a bit faster when the animals are not all underfoot, but I miss the sounds of them pushing and calling for their morning meals.

As I look across the gardens and raised beds most everything is brown and crunchy and weary from the cold. Most of the dead plant matieral has been pulled up and tossed into the compost piles. The pomegranate trees were pruned back hard in the last few weeks and the piles of leaves and clippings have been burned as kindling in the fireplace. This week we worked on pruning back the roses and berry canes. I cleaned out the barn and treated all of the animals for lice since they are all sleeping together in closer quarters now. We took advantage of some of our time off to trim the spurs on all of the roosters and everyone in the barnyard received a pedicure this month (I have the blisters to prove it!) This coming week I plan to clean out the nursery pen and get it fixed up for the first babies of 2012 (due the end of January). There are currently three does in the breeding pens, and four more will go in late Febuary or early March for summer babies. This morning I dragged the plastic boxes from the garage back into the house and started to pack up the Christmas ornaments. Tonight I will try to finish this job, and then start to toss out the leftovers that have been pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten about. I will eat the last of the christmas baked goods as I reflect on this season. Christmas is over, and the year is almost done. I am right in-between tired and happy this week. Not a bad place to be if you stop and think about it.

Spring Cleaning

Well, it’s that time of year once again when we get into that “spring cleaning” mode. The weather is finally warm enough to be able to get outside early in morning, and it is staying light out late enough that you can get large projects finished up in one day.  It’s time to get into the barn with the broom and knock down all of the condo’s the spiders have been building all winter (although my vet told me that cobwebs were a sign of a healthy barn). I think this year I will be forced to apply a new coat of paint as well.  I will need to replace all of the fly traps to keep ahead of them this season. I am getting ready to move out all of the plants that have to over-winter in the greenhouse and get them to a suitable spring/summer location. I also like to toss a couple of large hens in there for a week or so to clear it of black widows and other insects that have taken up residence for the winter in there.

Although kitty has been vigilant about keeping the mouse population down to few and far between this winter (all hail Lucy – oh mighty hunter!), I need to get into the shed and clean the shelves off, rearrange the feed and garden supplies, and sweep all the way back into all the dark corners and reset some of the bait stations. I use a mixture of 1/2 flour and 1/2 plaster of paris for the rodents. It won’t harm kitty or the dogs but works very well on the mice and other little furry critters that get into the shed.

We found the first snake of the season last weekend (just a little garter snake) so it is now warm enough that they are coming out of hibernation and we should be watchful. In the nine years I have owned this land we have had only one rattlesnake that I know of  – and that was because a wood pile was left over the winter. We do have two red racers that come around every year and there has been at least one large king snake spotted in the back field, so it is always a good idea to clean up any piles of debris, like the tree branches that have been sitting in the driveway since December waiting for the chipper. My bad.

Then it is on to the inside of the house…….

Weeds and the Fall of Man

We got about another inch and a half of rain from the storm on Sunday. The good news- it’s making it easy once again to pull the large weeds that have taken deep root. The bad news, everything once again smells like wet turkeys! The weeds around here grow very fast in our fertile soil. Two years ago, I had the young man who used to clean stalls at the alpaca farm in back of us cart all of the manure over to our fields for an entire season. Wonderful thing, alpaca manure. It does not smell and it does not burn. This year I swear you can hear the mallow growing in the fields. The goats will not eat the mallow, the sheep will not eat the mallow, nothing will eat the mallow. I have found some recipes online for it but I’m just not brave enough to try them. Cowardice is insufferable. There are some big old stinging nettles in the front garden that I need to get to in the next few days, or I will be very sorry that I didn’t. All these weeds are a man’s fault anyway, so ladies, next time yours complains about weeding the garden remind him of this. It all dates back to the book of Genesis in the Bible and the fall of man.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.” – Genesis 3:17
We had it good in the garden until Adam goofed it up for the rest of us. Way to go Adam! (Don’t get me started on verse 16, Eve!)

The rain gave us an excuse to work in the greenhouse for a little while, and we got some of the little tomatoes potted up into larger pots of their own. It’s a little early yet and they are still kind of small. When I stopped off at the nursery the other day to browse around those did not look much better. I think it is a little early still to be thinking about them yet.

Our beans and cucumbers are moving along well and I will probably be planting out the sunflowers by this weekend. Tonight is the new moon so this has been a clean-up and weeding week for us. The mornings are still very cold and I still can’t seem to get myself out there to work on the raised beds. There is something about 36 degrees on the thermometer and being able to see my breath that keeps me from wanting to go outside that early. I much prefer to stand and stare out at the front garden from the comfort of the living room with a hot cup of coffee in my hand.