Archive for December, 2011

Eggscellent! …..full house

December 26, 2011

Today the girls surpassed themselves and I got an egg from each of them. I still can’t believe it. I keep opening the fridge door and looking at these three tiny football-shaped brown things (average weight 40 g) looking so silly in a normal-sized carton.

Before I go any further, I want to announce that they’ve finally been given names.

Since they were like identical triplets, I despaired of ever being able to tell them apart, but I can now, because they all have slightly different combs.

One has a narrow flattish comb. I was calling her Shorty, but have changed it to Cheeky, because she’s the cheekiest one of the three. She’s now taking food from my hand and whenever I manage to find three ripe strawberries, she’s always first in the queue for hers. Then, having wolfed it down, she’ll front up for seconds and thirds. I have to push her away so that the others get theirs, which still have to be thrown down in front of them. So Cheeky she is.

She who laid the first egg is to be called Lady, short for First Lady (nothing to do with the one in the White House), but because she was the first chicken to become a fully-fledged hen by virtue of laying first. Besides, she acts like a mature lady, preferring to sit on her log while the other two rocket around like a couple of kids. So she is Lady. She has a taller comb than Cheeky, with short teeth and smallish wattles.

The last of the three has the tallest, most deeply-toothed comb of all and the largest, floppiest, reddest wattles—an impressive head. I rather like the name Molly, which was what my friend called one of her Sussex hens before she decided to get rid of them. Molly went to a good home, where she met a handsome rooster and is now the mother of a flock of little Mollys. So now I have my own Molly.

Anyway, to get back to today’s egg-laying activities.

There was a lot of clucking and chortling happening when I got up and it didn’t take Lady long to dig another hole in the sandy floor of the coop. I’d put a bit of straw and shredded newspaper back there, resigned to the fact that this was probably where she was going to ‘do’ it, and she carefully arranged it around her skirts.

I went inside to have breakfast while the clucking (mainly from Cheeky and Molly) continued. When I came out, there was Lady’s second egg lying in the nest.

I retrieved it (funny to feel it still warm) and took it inside. Lady left the coop, had a big feed and went to join the others. When I came out again everyone was still making  a great deal of noise. I could see only Lady & Cheeky out in the playground and was amazed to see Molly in the coop throwing nesting material about with gay abandon. Cheeky came in and tried to sit all over her and did a bit of tossing stuff around, too.

I left them to it (have to get some work done after all), and found Molly’s first effort a bit later, and took that inside, leaving them busy digging holes, thinking that would be that for the day.

After lunch I was idly standing looking at them in the playground (which is what I call the non-secure site with the net over the top), when I saw another egg lying in the dirt.

I have no idea where it came from or when it was laid. I can only assume it was Cheeky’s first effort and (trust her to get it wrong) she’d done it outside the coop. It had probably been covered and uncovered with dirt and mulch several times before I saw it. I might never have seen it, given the amount of earth-moving they accomplish.

So there you go. Three eggs in one day. Real chooks at last.

Oh, and I had Lady’s first egg for dinner on Saturday. Poached on toast with one from the free-range egg farm at the end of the street (I may never go there again!). It looked a tiny little thing against the biggy, but had a better-coloured yolk:

(It’s on the right, in case you couldn’t tell!)

My first egg…..yes!!!!!

December 23, 2011

After the events of a couple of days ago, things went quiet on the chook front. There were no more attempts at nesting…until this morning.

I came home from shopping to hear a cacophony of clucking and chortling from the back of the house. She who had caused all the worry on Tuesday was in the coop and the other two were making all the noise. I spent the next hour watching.

She had dug two big holes in the sand and was alternately sitting in first one then the other, all the while picking up bits of straw and tossing them over her shoulder. The others crowded in to  have a look and there was a lot of quiet chatter.

This went on for a while until the others got bored and went back out to play. She stayed there fossicking around until I got bored too, and went to make a coffee. When I came out she was just leaving the coop. Not a sound from her, so I assumed another false alarm.

I went in and found it just lying there in the sand. No big dramas…no “look what I just did”. All in a day’s work:

The scale hasn’t shown up well in the photo, but it reads just 37 g.  There will be more and they’ll no doubt be bigger, but I’m so proud of her.

To Julie of Country Chooks, if you’re reading this, a big thank you for my girls. It was a lucky day when I found your website.

Beautiful stuff

December 22, 2011

I like this guy’s writing. This is beautiful stuff.  In a nutshell…..what is wrong with industrial civilisation.

I note that he starts with a quote from Derrick Jensen. I have most of Jensen’s books and a CD of talks given by him. While I can re-read books by other authors many times, I find re-reading Jensen’s work difficult. That’s because in his criticism of industrial civilisation, he brings it home how damaging is this system we all live in and contribute to.  Anger, frustration and tears of despair is how I ended up after finishing Endgame, his huge 2-volume work.

I wrote to Jensen and said I would do everything I could to bring down industrial civilisation. He wrote back and thanked me. Then I thought, how on earth do I bring down a system that is so damaging to the planet’s life-support systems and one that almost everyone around me subscribes to? Without even knowing that’s what they’re doing? Then I thought, it will bring itself down eventually and I felt better.

Millions of life forms will die in humanity’s mad scramble to survive its own destructiveness. It’s more than likely Homo sapiens will be one of them.

I can handle that.

My first egg…..or not

December 21, 2011

Yesterday I had a minor trauma with one of the girls (although it seemed major at the time).

In the morning, they’d all been doing a great deal of clucking and caroling and one of them went into the coop (on the ground floor, under the nestboxes), lay down in the mulch and proceeded to pick up bits of it and toss them over her back.

Now this is a dead giveaway for preparing to nest. The wild Black Ducks do this by the pools at the back of the property just before they lay, so I thought, “Here we go…..this is IT…..eggs at last”. They’re 24 weeks old and I knew laying was close.

She chatted to herself while she was doing her housework and the other two came to watch, with me bringing up the rear.

But it all came to nothing. Eventually she got up and they all went out to the playground to dig holes.

After lunch, I noticed she wasn’t as lively as the others. Her tail drooped and the feathers on her rear were fluffed up. She was drinking, but not eating, her droppings were a bit runny and she preferred to lay in a quiet corner, with closed eyes, while the other two rocketed around doing their usual things. I gave them a few treats. The others wolfed them down but she wasn’t interested.

They’ve all been so active and healthy, that I was taken aback. What could be wrong?

I Googled sick chickens and her symptoms. Could she be egg bound on her first try? So far I haven’t tried to handle them. They won’t even eat out of my hand. There was no way I was going to try and check her out like they recommended (stick a finger up her vent…I mean, I ask you!!), without stressing her (and me) out further.

There’s a young chap a few doors down who’s a vet and he has chickens himself. I rang, hoping I’d strike him on his RDO. No, he was at work, so I rang there. It was after 6pm and he was due to leave. He promised to call in on his way home.

While I waited, she passed (?laid) a large ‘splat’ of yellowish-white stuff. I took one look and thought, “that looks like egg yolk.” There was an elongated sac as well which had more yellowish stuff in it. I knew chickens can lay eggs without shells; this looked like the whole thing had broken inside her.

My vet neighbour turned up and confirmed it. By this time she was starting to pick up a bit, pecking at the ground. He reckoned she’d probably be OK by morning, but if not I was to bring her into the surgery.

I took a peek at them just after dusk. She’d made it up onto the roosting perch, so I was a bit happier.

Today she was fine…her old self again. But….all 3 of them were in the coop inspecting the layout and chatting to themselves. They never normally go in there during the day. They’ve never been up into the nestbox area (to my knowledge). I removed all the mulch from the floor. I don’t want them to lay in there. There are 2 nestboxes up at convenient egg-collecting height. I don’t want to be scrambling on hands and knees to get eggs off the floor.

Why do they like the basement when the apartments above are so comfy? Don’t chooks ever look up? Why can’t they see what’s up there? The entrance is right beside the night roost and a perch actually leads right into the nesting area.

There’s no accounting for the tinyness of the chook brain.

Monday stuff

December 12, 2011

Those tomato cuttings I took recently grew roots in just 15  days and have been planted out. The mulch around them is shredded newspaper which I’m experimenting with:

I grow my own poppyseed to put in bread. It’s easy. Just buy a packet of supermarket poppyseed and sow it. I love the unusual plump seed heads as they mature. They go brown and dry and you can hear the seeds rattling inside. That’s the time to harvest, before the capsule splits open at the top and releases the seed. The heads belong to a couple of self-sown plants from last year. Those pale green leaves behind them actually belong to chia plants. This is another species I’m trying this year, again grown from supermarket seed:

I finally got a good photo of one of the girls, probably because she was so interested in what I was pointing at her that she stayed still long enough for me to press the button:

The other 2 weren’t so interested. The double-lacing on the feathers shows up well here. No eggs yet, though. They’ll be 24 weeks old at Christmas. C’mon girls. Up an’ at ’em!:

First beans of the season. Purple Kings, my favourite:

These tomatoes are called Silvery Fir Tree. It’s a variety I haven’t grown before. It’s not exactly silvery, but the leaves are more finely divided than the usual varieties and quite attractive. It looks like they’re going to bear well; there are already many fruits forming. The habit is spreading rather than upright. These two plants are growing well in a wicking tub:

Harvesting potatoes

December 9, 2011

I love harvesting potatoes.

There’s a sensual pleasure in pushing a hand down into soft black earth and feeling around for that smooth, round shape that can’t possibly be a clod of earth.

Pulling it out, caressing the roundness of it and putting it in the basket.

And another. And another.

I know I really should  pick only what I need for a meal and leave the rest as an in-ground store, but once I’ve started, I can’t stop till they’re all up. It’s like a drug hit.

There are 2.5 kilos there and still 3 more patches to harvest.

In the ‘3 more patches’ I’m not including this lot:

They’re growing in a freebie compost bin that came from the local Council. I got it for agreeing to take part in a ‘halve-waste’ program they’re running. To be eligible, I had to agree to put out my rubbish bin only once a fortnight, in other words, halving my waste. It was easy, because I only ever put it out once a month anyway. For that, I got a free compost bin and $20 off my rates each year ($20!!!….generous lot, our Council!).

Anyway, it looks like there’s going to be a good crop of potatoes in there, but I’m not sure I want to eat them.

You see, this is not one of my normal compost bins, where I put the ‘good’ stuff. This one gets all the ‘junk’ stuff, like the gunk out of the greasetrap, the stuff from the vacuum cleaner bag, weeds with seeds and a variety of deceased animals. There are at least 2 dead rabbits and 1 dead possum in there (they died of natural causes). It’s never been emptied. I just keep throwing stuff in and it keeps on shrinking.

Maybe I should harvest the crop of potatoes and just use them for replanting in another, more wholesome place.

Thermomix home demo

December 5, 2011

I’ve blogged a bit about my new Thermomix  recently. What I didn’t tell you was that the demonstrator talked me into having my own home demo.

I’m not normally into this sort of thing and freaked out a bit after reluctantly accepting, but we had it last Saturday and it turned out really well.

After wondering who on earth I could invite, I actually ended up with 6 people—3 neighbours and 3 friends.

I was happy to hand the kitchen over to the demonstrator who came equipped with most of the food and individual serve bowls; all I had to do was provide a few simple food items, some large bowls and a bag of ice cubes (for the sorbet).

We were treated to a varied menu, showing just what sort of things the Thermomix can do:

Strawberry sorbet
Herb & garlic dip
Bread rolls
Beetroot salad
Mushroom risotto
Lemon custard

I received a really useful present for hosting the demo—a double-walled (hence insulated) stainless steel serving bowl, which can be used to keep food hot (e.g. risotto) or cold (e.g. sorbet).

 Thermomix and serving bowl

Everyone seemed to have a good time and left happily replete with tasty food and it looks like there will be at least 2 more Melbourne households sporting Thermomixes on the kitchen bench (did you know there are 17 million Thermomixes in use in Italy alone?).

So far, in my Thermomix, I’ve made:

Pumpkin soup
Bread rolls
2 loaves of bread
Ice cream
Lemon butter
Beetroot salad (3 batches, would you believe—I love it)
Steamed brown rice
Vegetable soup
Beef casserole