Monday, August 27, 2012

late august harvests

 these days i'm mostly getting lots of tomatoes, squash, some peppers, eggplants, and ground cherries.

 the long red peppers are choriceros, a basque heirloom pepper brought here and grown for the last 50 years by a gentleman i met at a seed swap a couple years ago. the purple/green peppers are black hungarian, the eggplants are fairy tale and shoya long, and the squash are ronde de nice and yellow straightneck.

 the yellow-ish green tomatoes on the far right are lime green salad--when you cut them open they're brilliant emerald green inside. also pictured are ground cherries (in the dish), and an assortment of tomatoes: white currants, cream sausage, lemon drop, chocolate cherry, brown berry, gartenperle, tiny tim, and a mystery tomato i grew from OSU blue seed i saved last year. the mystery appears to be an accidental cross with a larger, striped tomato (in this picture they just look like generic medium-size red tomatoes, but the ones ripening now have some blue in them, and more pronounced stripes.) thankfully i planted one pure OSU blue plant from the original seed.

 casper eggplant, tomatoes and squash, including a couple "peter pan" squashes. i planted these extremely late so they're just now starting to pump out the fruit. when you let them age off the plant for a few days the coloring turns really cool, kinda green/yellow tie-dye.

 my first two japanese black trifele tomatoes (top right) and zapotec pleated tomatoes (bottom). i tried to grow both of these last year but they died as seedlings before transplant. the zapotec pleated at front/right weighs 3/4lb.

 snow white cherry tomato, with an outie belly button!

 mixed basil pot, with (clockwise from bottom right) opal, sweet, thai and dwarf greek basil. i discovered last year (or maybe the year before? i can't remember) that basil does really well planted in a container, planted late in the season, and grown in partial shade. some of that goes against traditional growing practices for basil, but that's what has worked by far the best for me here in boise.

 this is red and green holy basil, a.k.a. krishna tulsi, grown in a separate container. the stems turned a beautiful deep purple.

 the dozen-or-so volunteer tomatillo plants took over a huge portion of the garden bed. they're all loaded with fruit, but nothing ripe yet.

 nikki and i went blackberry picking yesterday. the berries were super sour, nothing like the ones i picked a couple weeks ago. luckily i picked just the right amount for a pie. it still turned out nice and tart, but not as unbearably mouth-puckering as the raw berries.

 the calendula in my front bed is in full bloom, and the bees are loving it.

Monday, August 20, 2012

crackhead chickens and egg-cessories

 all the chickens have laid an egg every day since thursday. 15 eggs in five days! way faster than i expected them to pile up.
 i'm still stockpiling them like a neurotic depression-era grandma. i'm more excited to give them away to all the people on my waiting list than to eat them myself.
 i had saved up over a dozen by the time my relatives got here the weekend before last, and on saturday i made an all-homegrown/home-raised/foraged brunch for everyone:
 biscuits with rosemary and basil;
 roasted squash and onions with herbs;
 mixed tomato salad with green and purple basil, olive oil, salt and pepper;
 scrambled eggs;
 and blackberries. that morning i went down to the river and foraged 4.5lbs of plump, perfect berries.
 after brunch kelly and i made our traditional brownies, with eggs, and ate as much batter as we could scarf down.
 she did the lion king with potato! my little latke barely used his legs the entire weekend while my family was here. (latke is my new favorite nickname for him. he's my potato pancake.)
 i got my chickens hooked on crack. they love it. and i loved it enough to pay a ridiculously inflated price for the cute packaging (i'll refill it with cheap bulk scratch when it's gone). they prefer tomatoes though, especially the white currant ones that they can eat in one bite.
 the ladies only lay eggs in their nesting boxes if they're in their coop. if they're out and about they have other preferred spots.
 minnie chose a corner of the outdoor counter, right next to the back door.
 wynnie copied her, and the other day i saw them try to use it at the same time. minnie got muscled out, so she went in and laid in her nesting box. prinnie is even more creative:
 she made herself a nest out of dead leaves under the wheel well of the old trailer shed.
 i only discovered this on saturday, so there were already two eggs in her hidden clutch.
 prinnie's mohawk is beginning to lose its structural integrity. her semi-flaccid comb gives her a cute morrissey look.

 i've begun collecting tchicken tchotchkes.
 this may turn unhealthy.
 antique stores and thrift stores are loaded with the stuff--i never noticed before.
 cam gave me this wonderful ceramic egg carton!
check out "interesting facts about chicken eggs," from the backyard chickens site. some of my favorites:

The typical interval between eggs laid is about 25 hours, so a hen that lays an egg every day will lay a bit later each day.

Often a hen will sing “the egg song” before or after she lays an egg. Some will sing during the process of laying. It is a cheerful song that seems to be a proud announcement.

An eggshell has a protective coating that prevents bacteria from entering the egg. To retain this coating, eggs should not be washed until just before use.

If you aren’t sure how old an egg is, you can submerge it in water. The freshest eggs will remain at the bottom of the container, while old eggs will float. Floaters should either be discarded or opened far from your nose.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

animals from andy to zinnie

edit, 8/16: zinnie died today. i thought she was fine. the other chickens didn't try to attack her, they just squawked a lot at first, and later calmed down, but they did chase her away if she got in their way. last night when i checked on them, all four were cuddled up together. this morning the others were leaving her alone. i put up a perch that only zinnie could get to, just in case the others got aggressive and she needed to escape. i don't know what happened, but when i came home from work she was dead on the floor of the coop. i feel awful.
obviously i needed another chicken. OBVIOUSLY. i'm now outnumbered by furry and feathered friends at a ratio of 6:1.

the new addition is a 10-week-old silver laced wyandotte. she was free on craigslist--her sister was eaten by a fox, and the owners didn't want to keep just one lonely chicken. plus the fox might come back, and they didn't feel ready to have chickens in the first place--they didn't have a coop built yet, so the babies were sleeping in mailboxes.

silver laced wyandotte is the breed i wanted most of all this spring, but they were totally sold out.

this is what she'll look like. she'll fit with the white/black/gray theme of my little flock beautifully. she'll produce brown or tan eggs, approximately 200-240 a year.

the ladies are not sure what to make of her at all. it's going to take some getting used to. if i need to keep her in isolation for a while i can do that, but i don't want to...

her old owners called her "wild rose," because she liked to hide under a wild rosebush in their backyard. i'm changing her name to zinfandel (because she's a "WINE-dot"), and zinnie for short, to fit with the others. now there's minerva, wynonna, printemps and zinfandel--minnie, wynnie, prinnie and zinnie.

today is the first day all three of the older girls laid an egg! turns out prinnie is a white egg layer. that's ok. minnie is still laying every day (13 total now), wynnie has laid three, and prinnie has done one and a half (her first one was an "oops egg," with no shell).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

egg white

first white egg today! i think it was wynnie.

here she is being a chicken cameleon (chick-EE-lee-en):

i looked closely at prinnie's earlobes, which are supposed to indicate egg color, and they're seafoam green. (before i started reading about chickens, i didn't even know they had earlobes.) i think i read that anconas are capable of producing, but rarely do produce, tinted eggs. maybe she's one of those rare birds. it would be so neat to have three chickens with three different colors of eggs.

minnie's laid an egg every day since she started. i ate the first one and now i've saved half a dozen--i'm hoarding them to share with visiting family this weekend.

Monday, August 6, 2012

harvest monday, 8.16.12

my poor neglected garden is overrun with weeds right now. i haven't had as much time/energy to put into gardening this year as i thought i would. i'm way more focused on the animals.

minnie has laid an egg every day since friday! i thought they'd be sporadic for a while, but apparently not. still waiting for the other two.

i got this cute chicken basket at a fabulous antique/thrift store called mixed bag bazaar.

i'm enjoying the small plates of homegrown food i get every day or two.

pretty small onions too. but still tasty.

no ripe big tomatoes yet, only small ones. lots of green.

my fuzzy wuzzy tomatoes are ripening (above). these are very rare, special tomatoes that i sent away for from a tomato gardener in the netherlands (i couldn't find them anywhere in the states). they grow to less than a foot tall, with heart-shaped red fruit with shiny orange stripes. the leaves and fruit are covered in a soft, velvety fuzz:

naranjilla is blooming! look at those wicked thorns. for scale, the biggest leaves are about a foot and a half long, not counting the stem.