Sunday, October 27, 2013

Molting Chickens & Fall Harvest Basket

I went out to the chicken pen and it looks like a fox or something got one or more of my chickens.  There were feathers everyplace inside their hen house and along the fence where the wind had blow them.  After counting chicken heads and looking at them closely, I realized that it wasn't a fox, but it is molting season.
Chicken molt once a year and it takes around 4-8 weeks for the process to take place depending on their breed.  They gradually loose their feathers and grow new ones.  Molting can be a very stressful and energy intensive time for chickens.  One important thing that I keep an eye on is bleeding. 
Chickens may occationally, peck on a fello chickens spot that looks a little red.  That is their nature and they keep pecking and pecking that other birds spot until it starts to bleed.  That hen needs to be isolated immediately until the wound has heeled and feather have started to grow back.
Most chickens stop laying eggs during the molting period or the production is very low.  I have read that during this time it helps to provide extra protein to their diets during molting time as feathers are 85% protein.  No more than 16-24% of added protein should be added to their diet.

Alfalfa Hay, Sunflower Seed, Cooked Eggs, Peas or Beans, Pearl Millet, or dry Cat Food {not dog food which is high in grains compared to cat food's protein coming from animal protein} are ways to add the protein.  We recently disked our fields so I have let my chickens out to forage all those yummy bugs to add extra protein.
Over the many years that I have raised chickens, molting time is when I will normally have my old chickens die, sad to say.  The weather is changing getting colder at night; the stress on their bodies of molting and their age is what does it but most of my chickens lead a wonderful life of free ranging, fresh scraps from the gardens, good grains and very little stress of wild animals getting into their hen house.  Most of my old hens live to be 7-8 years old.  I don't care that they may not lay eggs any longer, it is nice to have them around and being the "seniors" with the other younger chickens. The older girls seem to keep the law and order with the others and teach the pullets how to forage; are the ones who alert the flock when a hawk flys over; and teaches the pecking order of who sleeps where in the hen house at night.
Just when you think they couldn't loose any more feathers, they are all fluffy and covered all over again and the eggs start appearing in their nesting boxes.
We delivered our last Fall Harvest CSA basket this week.  In the basket were Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons; pomegranates; kiwi; onions; Granny Smith and Fuji apples; walnuts; 3 colors of bell peppers; banana peppers; green and red tomatoes; cherry tomatoes; Egg plant; mini guavas; Meyer lemons; and baked goods. 
It was a full and rewarding farming year and we are so thankful for our wonderful CSA members and other customers that come and buy our produce.  And we are thankful to all those people out there in blog land and Facebook land that hear about what we do and lend their comments and support even though they may be states or even countries away from our little farm here in Gridley.
Until next time-

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pomegranates & Persimmons Are Here, Fall Harvest CSA Basket

Talk about weird weather!!!  It is cool at night but it has been in the 80s for weeks and each day it is getting warmer.  I had shut off the water last week to our yard and to the gardens, but I turned them back on again yesterday.  Things are really looking dry.
We picked the persimmons and the rest of our pomegranates this week.  We have the Hachiya persimmons and the Fuju persimmons. 
Hachiya persimmons are mouth-puckering tart unless absolutely, supremely ripe. Ripe hachiyas are unbelievably soft - and are often almost liquefied into a silky smooth pulp inside. They are elongated and oval shaped. They will ripen once picked, so you can let them soften on the kitchen counter until ready to use.  Hachiyas are thought of as "baking" persimmons and are commonly peeled and pureed into a pulp to add to baked goods. They add stable moisture and a mild, pumpkin-like flavor to cakes, puddings, and other treats.
The Fuyu persimmon is native to Japan and originally came from China.
The fruit fits in the palm of a hand, slightly smaller than an apple and looks like a mini-pumpkin.  It is eaten with skin on or peeled; can be added to fresh vegetable or fruit salads or eaten as a snack.  Right now with the pomegranates ripe, I put the Fuyu persimmons AND the pomegranate seeds into a vegetable salad, the very best and so healthy!!!
We also dry them: slice them with our mandolin, lay them out on our dehydrator shelves and dry them for about 10 hours.  Then I bag them up into zip lock bags to eat as snacks (like chips) or place them in the freezer to be eaten later.
These fruits always mean to me that nature constantly gives us wonderful fruits to eat almost all year round. 
The Meyer lemons are almost perfect, ready to be picked and the mandarins are plumping up and starting to have some color.  And the oranges are still green but getting huge in size.
It is hard to believe, but I am still getting cherry tomatoes and some medium sized tomatoes and there are lots of green tomatoes.  I have egg plant and the peppers just do not want to give up giving.  I really should be pulling up all of the garden so it can be tilled by Frank but I just do not want to waste any of it or my flowers.  Maybe next week as we are delivering our last CSA basket for the 2013 season.  It is called the Fall Harvest Basket.
In the basket we will have peppers, tomatoes, egg plant, onions, apples, pomegranates, pumpkins, persimmons, lemons, Swiss Chard/parsley/basil, and a few baked pumpkin cookies and mini cakes.
After that, it will be time to prune, clean up leaves; disc; pull up some trees that were split this spring; clean out the sheds; clean up all the garden tools; cut back grapes; winterize the chicken coop-the list just never ends when it comes to farming.
Until next time!!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Floral Design Class a Success!! Pomegrantes Ripe; Chicken Eggs Are Happening

Frank had pneumonia last year and was very sick.  So this year, I insisted that he get a pneumonia shot and a flu shot and so should I get one.  I called our doctor's office to ask them if the shots were OK to get at our local Rite Aid, as they were advertising and could we get both of them at the same time; AND would our insurance/Medicare pay for them. Yes, yes and Yes.  We both went into Rite Aid and the new pharmacist gave us our shots and said our arms would be a little stiff for a few days but should not have any other symptoms.
Bammm, the next day we were both sicker than dogs and were in bed until today.  Fevers, aches, pains, chills, headaches.  Only time we felt better was when we first took Tylenol, but that lasted only a short time.  Today we are both up AND dressed but moving slow.
About my Floral Design Class, what a success it was, great number attended and Lisa Hunter did a non stop, 2 1/2 hour fabulous demonstration, making 5 arrangements.  The flowers and greenery were cut right here at our farm. 
Lisa gave so many hints and tips about making arrangements "move"; about "bunching"; and to not be afraid to use natural elements from nature in the arrangements. 
She told us what is happening in the trends of her wedding floral design business; told us how to keep flowers fresh; how to use different types of vases.
At the end of our class, I had the attendees put their name in a jar, I drew names and the winners got to choose one of the arrangements she made or a gift facial package given to me by my friend, Kathleen Turner, who is a local licensed esthetician. And each person got to take home a pumpkin I made which I showed you in the previous blog.  Lisa had suggested that we have another class at the beginning of December on making holiday wreaths which we all loved that idea.  The photos aren't the best, I was trying to get everything Lisa needed to make the arrangements and was moving around the room trying to get good pictures with my phone and see they didn't turn out as great as they were in person.
Our pomegranates are ripe and we picked our first picking of the largest ones.  If anyone is interested, just email, call or Facebook me and I will be glad to get you some.  Our prices are fabulous and when you go to the grocery stores and see they are selling them for 2-$5 it just makes sick that we sell ours so cheap. 
 Opening up pomegranates is not that difficult.  I cut them in half and place them in water and pull out the seeds which go to the bottom and the membrane goes to the top.  There are several tutorials on the Internet that show you how to pop open the seeds using a wooden spoon and another one that cuts off the top; slices the bottom flat; slightly cut top to bottom where the pom has ridges and pull apart.  All these methods get you to the inside, beautiful and very healthy pomegranate seeds.  You can use the juice; make jelly; or just eat them.  I also have small pomegranates I sell very cheap, cheap if anyone wants them to add to holiday decorations or making of wreaths for the holidays.
Our chickens are laying like crazy, finally!!!  The ones we purchased that were originally 4 months old are now laying smaller sized eggs but each day they are getting bigger.  A few haven't figured out they need to plan ahead and find a box to lay.  I have been finding eggs in the outside pen or on the inside on the floor.  One is really enjoying her cackling voice when she lays a egg, she just cackles and cackles for about 5 minutes.  She should be proud of her accomplishment.  The other batch that I got when they were only a few days old are now almost grown and should start laying at the end of November.  Thank goodness I will finally be able to keep up with my egg orders of my customers.  They are so patient, kind and understanding of the ways of chickens!!!
Until next time from our Windmill Farm

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Painted Pumpkins and Great Floral Design Class

I wanted to have something special to have as door prizes for my very SPECIAL Floral Design Class that we had last week.  I normally try and have something that goes along with my event.  Example: like bag full of apples, jams and canning labels for my applesauce canning class.
I grew some pumpkins in the back, not that many plants but some that weren't quite turning orange.  I think the seeds were for the white pumpkins but may have teamed up pollination with a squash plant.  I took out my clippers and filled up my cart with them, gave them a good washing and set them all up in my garage to paint.

Out came my blue Annie Sloan paint and thought that would take about an hour to do them all, but the paint wasn't covering well.  Needed two coats and then the finish was that "chalk" flat color.  I went to my spray can stash and decided to try painting a few in silver, gold and bronze.  Spray painting took only seconds and covered so well AND I thought made the pumpkins look
fabulous.  I did about half of them in the metallic, then I spattered some of the silver/gold paint over the top of the Annie Sloan pumpkins and rubbed them while it was wet.  That did the trick.  Then my mind went to the REAL chalk paint, the blackboard paint and thought how cute it would be to have black pumpkins that you could write on with chalk.  I have painted chalk paint many times using a brush, but couldn't find any left over paint. 
So I ran down to Mac's and looked around and saw they had Rust-O-Ileum Chalk Board spray paint-terrific.  And boy was it easy, I held a rag in my left hand to cover the pumpkin stems while spray painting them with my right hand. 
After they dried, I tied raffia, burlap and took some strips from canvas drop cloth and made bows to finish them off.  I think the people who attended the class loved them and I believe I have started a new trend to Halloween decorating!
I will share with you later about what a fabulous class we had learning how to make flower bouquets.  I have so many pictures, it will make this post way too long.  Talk to you in a couple days!!!  Have fun spray painting pumpkins or gourds or even plastic pumpkins.