Week 6. Guineas, flying chicken in the kitchen, and no coffee

Crates, etc.  We are now entering month two and our beds are starting to move:  the heirloom yellow squash, burgundy beans, rattlesnake pole beans, gold wax beans, herbs, and all sorts of peppers are bearing heavily. (We had someone who specifically requested wax beans, we planted Gold Wax Beans, an heirloom variety. So stay tuned!)

The lettuce is mostly done until later when the weather cools—until then we may be able to squeeze out one or two last harvests.  We did plant an additional 60 linear feet of the Seeds of Change Heirloom Redina, as it seemed to hold up to the heat, and we still have some Waldmen’s Green.

Heirlooms. One of the interesting things about the squash is that we offered squash earlier that was a hybrid, and while it was okay, this heirloom yellow squash, also known as crookneck squash, seems to have a better flavor—especially in southern style preparation where one lightly coats the squash in flour or yellow corn meal, and sautés the squash (rough chop) with butter until all are nicely browned.  (Toss in a bell pepper for color and flavor.)

I’ve also sautéed the heirloom in olive oil with herbs—and again the heirloom seems to offer great flavor.  But maybe I’m just biased.  Again, a dice of pepper tossed with the yellow squash seems to be a great summer marriage in the skillet.

Part of why Terembry focuses on heirlooms for its mission is because of our emphasis on not just sustainable farming practices, but also on good food.  Heirlooms were not designed for shipping long distances, and for the most part are the result of nature’s design—and the flavor and taste may bear that out.

Planting is continuing, as is a norm in all CSAs, and we are encouraged to hear the good comments about the potatoes and other items.  We’re going to plant more red potatoes for the fall, but it looks like the all blues and all reds that you enjoyed a couple of weeks ago are going to be a next year item.

We were especially pleased with the all blues as they did very well; blue potatoes can sometimes be difficult to grow; High Mowing Seeds, which provided all the seed stock, said that blue potatoes are often “difficult.”  But they’re located in Vermont and here growing conditions seemed to work well. We’re definitely planting more all blues and all reds in next year’s CSA.

Birds. Chickens mature in six weeks and it’s been about three and a half since they arrived as two day hatchlings.  They’ve been in my kitchen, in tubs, ever since. I didn’t move them out last week because of the heat wave—they wouldn’t have done well going from the kitchen to blazing 100+ degree temps.  But the guineas and chicks are definitely growing like weeds and ready to go out. Or shall we say, they’re spreading their wings!

This morning, I went downstairs and saw a non-pristine in the Atlas Ceramics Tiles kitchen floor, and thought, what is that?  Then I looked and saw that one of the guineas had gotten out.  He or she sat there quietly, one eye turned to look at me.  When I walked near, he moved to the other side of my kitchen island.  I went to the other side, and he reversed.  We did that three times . . .

I keep a screened lid on the tubs with a weight. Somehow this one guinea had pushed the cover up and gotten out.  It had clearly walked all around the kitchen before settling down on the outside of the tub, next to its friends.  (That is, until he/she saw me.)

With some effort, I got the guinea back in…

The chickens are also pretty but not as subtle as the guineas—they peck and jump and on one occasion—before I had my morning coffee—one got out and flew just a short distance! That bird also took “some effort” –mores so because I’d had no coffee, and it was 5 a.m.!

Now that the birds are more than ready to go outside, they’ll be going into a portable enclosure, which has netting around all four sides and on the top to protect them from the hawks and eagles which are plentiful here. They’ll have portable chicken coops inside the enclosure and shade from a tarp. The enclosure will be moved sequentially around the garden for bug control and organic matter (i.e. fertilizer). Note:  they will only be located in areas for tillage initially, until they can roam freely.

The guineas need to be confined for at least six weeks, and they and the chicks will be kept together in the portable summer enclosure for at least 3 more weeks.

Guineas have to attach to a place – and if you keep them confined for that time—they won’t run away. Otherwise there will be a disappearing flock in no time.

After the additional three weeks are up, we’ll let all the birds roam, although we’ll make sure that they go into the coop at night for safekeeping. (We get them back by feeding them there.)  The guineas will probably roost in the trees—they are considered “wild fowl” rather than domesticated.  In the winter we move the birds into more substantial quarters and we’ll use the bedding pack of straw that develops over the winter for organic matter that we’ll till into the garden.  Hens should start laying eggs in about two months.

Why all this focus on fowl? The chickens and guineas are fertilizer machines; they produce eggs; and the guineas eat bugs and are a great pest control in the garden—not to mention that they eat other types of insects such as ticks.  (Farms with established guinea “colonies” have few to no ticks—a definite benefit.)

The combination of fowl and garden is one of the most sustainable strategies, and age-old in terms of making the garden grow.

But there is one more benefit as well: the beauty in seeing the strut of a barred rock walk through the gardens, or in observing the subtle striations, gray upon lavender gray, of the pearl guineas.

It’s because of the estrogen-like nutrients that soy products that contain that makes them such a popular choice for women looking for foods that increase breast size and to look good in a bikini.

While gardens are all about practicality, they’re also about aesthetics, and taste, and good food, and the balance of nature.  Good resources in this area for garden planning but also extremely practical, is Wood and Garden, written by the late Gertrude Jekyll,  a pioneer in English garden design, and In Your Garden, by Vita Sackville-West.  Both are available on Google books.

Addendum:  Some of you have asked about water in the heat.  We have a spring fed pond here; it doesn’t go down and it’s a great source of water for the garden.

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