Week 3. Keets and chicks

Are you tired of cabbage?

We hear ya.  After one more week, we’ll be slowing down on cabbage.  As a thought, keep in mind that before potatoes became widespread in Europe and the United Kingdom (they were an import from 16th century exploration of the New World), cabbages were the staple vegetable. Cabbage soup, cooked cabbage, cabbage with meat, picked cabbage–all sorts of variants existed for a basic vegetable.

In about two weeks, we’ll be harvesting our red, blue, yellow and Idaho potatoes.  The reds, yellows and blues are heirlooms, and they’ll be out first. When potato vines start laying over in the row, potatoes are ready to dig.  We planted 200 pounds, so expect about a 600 pound yield, or more.

Just for some updates about the farm, it has been super busy and it has been a tough couple of days.  Our guinea hens hatchlings (ordered for bug control) arrived at the local Post Office without notice.

Guineas are an African bird.  They are hatched out at 98.6 degrees and for the first week thrive at 95 degrees.  The AC in the Post Office was not the best environment, and we lost some.

I got home from a trip to Shenandoah Growers (their massive greenhouses are a large producer of NOP (National Organic Program) certified herbs in the Shenandoah Valley—and they are one source for our herb plants) only to hear an urgent message from the Post Office – “these “chickens” aren’t looking good.”

Our local Post Office is wonderful, and is the absolute model for a small rural post office.  But they thoughtfully put the guineas into a very cool area—to help—until we could get there.

The farm team got them ASAP and we got them under a lamp, but we did lose some.

The lavender keets are beautiful.  Like human babies, they sleep for a while, wake up and eat voraciously, then go back to sleep. Their heads have a subtle striation of purple and gray.   I’m going to call this remaining crew of keets, “The Spartan 300,”   because they are definitely a tough group!

Today our Barred Rocks hatchlings arrived.  We have 32 straight run chicks, all of them a puff of black fur. They are, like the keets, in a large box in my kitchen with a utility lamp perched above. They too are eating voraciously and my kitchen is full of the sounds of peeps.

Barred Rocks, also known as Plymouth Rocks, are an heirloom breed, thought to have been brought over on the Mayflower.  They are striking to look at and should lay nicely sized brown eggs.  We’ll be candling the eggs and washing them—but cannot at this point predict production.

While we can get eggs soon from a local neighboring farm that is overproducing, we hope to have our own eggs in September-October.

Before starting to talk about the veggies, just a quick note about animals on a farm.  It’s never easy to lose an animal, but to lose babies as we did with the three day old keet hatchlings, seems always to be the “most unkindest cut of all.”  (Shakespeare – Julius Caesar, Act 3)

I’ve been around animals all my life; I’ve helped to birth calves and found half frozen calves out in the pasture on cold February mornings. When a young life doesn’t make it, that is always the toughest.  I was most unhappy about the loss of our keets, but understand that everyone tried their best.

But back to veggies:  our gardens are doing well.  Beets are in and we’re getting ready to plant more beets, and we’ve planted quite a bit of winter squash and other squash varieties. Our tomato vines are loaded as are our many pepper plants.  Peppers—both jalapeno and bananas—are starting to yield, although we’ve had some visits from deer who are nibbling on the bell peppers.  Yesterday’s garden walk through noted some definite deer tracks, and today I saw a fat groundhog wandering through as well.

These critters are not friends to the garden. We use an old fashioned approach to keeping them off—dogs. Luc, Ollie and Luna, three GSDs, are tasked every evening with garden watch.  GSDs are actually farm or working dogs—herders—and are wonderful guardians of the garden.

Your crates this week should have zucchini, more cabbage (redux), and a good mix of herbs. Some folks may have gotten greens and lettuce.  The lettuce should be the last of it, although we’re going to try planting some in shady areas to see if we can get good lettuce in the hotter part of the summer.  Some of you got lucky and got the Redina lettuce, a red lettuce variety that is slightly sweeter than the heirloom mix that is multi-colored.  We have more ready to harvest and more to plant.

One final note, and then some recipes:  the yellow and zucchini squash, the cabbage and the cukes are not heirlooms. I cooked a light dinner last evening, and realized how much difference in flavor heirlooms offer.  The French Breakfast radishes were sharp and spicy and the heirloom mesclun had a spicy bit that normal lettuce does not. And the beets!  I boiled mine until tender and then served the small rounds on a salad. They were excellent.

Our cukes this week were standard variety and had the too thick skin—we’ve got some alternates coming and I think you’ll like the heirlooms better. I do.

Meanwhile don’t forget to check out the recipes we’ve posted. We added some new ideas this week for zucchini.

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