Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hen House Surprise

Today was a beautiful sunny day. We decided to take our lunch and drive out to the Sutter Buttes to see all the almond trees blooming and have a picnic. And the trees were gorgeous!!! If you have never taken that drive in the spring, it is well worth the trip. We always go through Live Oak, towards Gray Lodge, out Pennington Road. Acres and acres of puffy white and light pink almond and peach tree blossoms blowing in the breeze. What a nice lunch and trip, but I had on my list today to clean out the chicken coop so we headed home.
With all this rain, I felt the chickens could use a good hen house cleaning. My egg production had been down these last few weeks and a predator had taken off with my sweet Black Jersey Star hen. I needed to see how that fox or skunk had gotten into the pen which required opening up all the doors and nest boxes. A good time to get in there and do a thorough cleaning.
Even though this job is not a pleasant one, the day was so wonderful, even the hens seemed to be excited about what was happening in their house. I backed up the Gator to the side flap and cleaned out all the nest shavings. Then I opened up the interior door and started scooping out the straw and shavings on the hen house floor which took a good 45 minutes. I scrubbed down their perches and started to put down all new shavings.
While I was leaning over, I noticed a few eggs way back in the corner, under the perches and in an area under a bench, tucked in an area I had never noticed before. I started pulling out bedding, and found more eggs, and then more eggs, more bedding, more eggs. They just kept coming out the more I pulled. Here were all my eggs I had been missing!! The hens had found a special secret spot to lay their eggs and hide them from me. I counted 31 eggs. Of course, I had to throw them out as I had no idea how long they had been under there.
And if any of you readers have ever cracked a rotten egg, well you know what I mean!!!
Since I was cleaning up under that perch, I started pulling out all the rest of the nesting at the other end of this bench that I had not known about. Just in a flash, something came flying out at me. The first thing I thought it was, was a RAT or MOUSE!!! I screamed at the top of my lungs and jumped back. Since there wasn't a light on in the hen house,and I was on my hands and knees, my mind flashed it could be just about anything flying at me. As I got to my feet to run, I saw what had flew out at me, it was my missing sweet Black Jersey Star hen!!
I went and got my flashlight and saw what she was doing under there. She was sitting on 25 beautiful brown and warm eggs. That hen had not been lost to a predator but was laying on a sizable clutch of eggs. I have a feeling she had started another nest at the other end too, but may have gotten pushed out by another hen. That is a total of 56 eggs I had missed!!
I decided to let her keep this secret nest. I put some new straw and shavings all around the nest to protect them since I had cleaned out all the shavings that kept it so secret and protected.
The Jersey Star clucked around the yard for a while, pecked at some good bugs, along with the rest of the flock until I finished my hen house cleaning. I gave them fresh food, a good batch of scratch, cleaned their water and put my tools away. My unpleasant job was done.
A short time later, I decided to check to see how she was doing. There she was, all fluffed up on her nest as you see in the picture. I will keep a close eye on her in the next week or so to see if any of those eggs hatch. I do have Mr. Big Boy, the flock rooster so there is a strong possibility there may be some.
The tulip trees are blooming; the peach, apricot and apple trees are blooming; the daffodil bulbs are booming. Spring has arrived. Another special farm adventure here in Gridley at Windmill Farm. Happy Spring to you all.
Oh, I also want to remind you that I still have a few more memberships available to our 1st year of CSA-Community Supportive Agriculture. CSA allows you to receive a box of our produce once a week or bi-weekly, delivered to your doorstep, fresh picked and packed for you grown by Frank and I right here on the farm. Check out, check the CSA box and type in Windmill Farm and it will take you to our website page . It will explain general CSA information and list all the produce that we grow, along with our farm fresh eggs and seasonal flowers. Our food is grown using sustainable farming practices, it is delicious, and you will be supporting local farming. AND you will know where your food comes from!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Hello from Windmill Farm.

I have my list of seeds ready to order and have made a drawing of our back acreage where I want to grow the melons; the corn; the flower beds; the plants that spread out like cucumbers; and have a separate area to grow a few rows of ornamental Indian Corn for the fall decorations. We have a new bedder/rower (that is what I call them) to be towed with the tractor to make these raised beds to grow the plants. It is a renewed concept to have one drip system in the middle of the row, but to have 2 plantings, one on each side of the drip system. This idea is to cut back on the amount of water used but to increase production.

Windmill Farm has received several emails in the last few weeks with people interested in our CSA (Community Supportive Agriculture) memberships of our farm produce for 2010. I have only 5 spots left. I believe more and more people are becoming interested in purchasing their food locally and knowing how their food is raised and where it is grown and how many times the food has been touched before they eat it. It seems like every kind of magazine on the stands has an article about Farmer's Markets or growing food in your back yard or learning how to cook fresh, local vegetables. We work very hard to be good stewards of our land so that we provide you with our very best from our efforts as farmers. We may be senior citizens but we try and keep ourselves informed as to the most current agriculture practices; to use the least if no pesticides and are using composting to renew our soils.

This fall, after the trees were pruned, Frank used his new (used) flayer mower to grind up all the limbs. He made several passes and when he was finished, we had the most beautiful wood and leaf mulch that we spread around the base of the trees to add back nutrients and to aid in water conservation.

Frank and I took a fabulous Orchard Care and Pruning class in January given by Pamela Geisel, Academic Coordinator of the UC Ag & Natural Resources Statewide Master Gardener Program. Presenters were from the Glenn Co Agriculture program and the Master Gardener Program. We learned a great deal about training new trees, pruning overgrown trees; and pest management and fertilization. It was held at the Historical Mills Orchard in Hamilton City, in Glenn County. Pam gives a class in September on curing olives which we plan on attending this year. Our farm has 5 olive trees and we have been experimenting for a couple of years on how best to cure them and put them up in jars so we can't wait to learn more. We really appreciated Pam putting that class together and it was especially helpful having the hands-on training actually pruning trees in their orchard.

In January I also attended the Glenn County Certified Farmer's Market Start Up Meeting put on by Claudia Street. Ms. Street received a grant to start up a Farmer's Market in Glenn Co and Windmill Farm is hoping to have a booth at their market.

Frank and I went to the Colusa Farm Show where we saw some of the latest products for watering and cultivating crops along with fabulous displays of tractors, farm implements and farm products. I picked up a packet and sample pouch to have our soil tested by the Fruit Growers Laboratory, Chico Lab. Getting our soil tested was at the top of my list this year so that I know what our soil may need, and just as importantly, what it may NOT need. No sense in adding what is already there.

It won't be long before my inside time doing farming business and computer work will be limited. As soon as our soil is dry enough to work, we will be outside doing what we love, getting our hands dirty, digging in the dirt.