The Edge Of Autumn

Current Affairs, Food & Drink, Kitchen Gardening, Livestock, Nature

the-chicken-coopYesterday, temps were in the 90s, but all afternoon, we heard the howling of the wind. It’s probably the way our house is situated, or maybe the metal roof, but when the wind comes through, it sounds super intense and can be a little frightening. Considering how hot it’s been lately, though, we welcomed the first real cold front of the season.

Today, the high will only be in the 60s, a brief taste of the fall and winter ahead, before we head back into Texas summer territory. I can’t help but remember a visit from our niece and her now-husband the first year after we moved here. They came in early September, hoping to avoid the August heat, but landed smack in the middle of a drought — and the hottest summer on record. One day, determined to show them a good time, we all packed up and headed to the Hot Sauce Festival in Austin. Temps that day climbed to the highest we’ve seen — 113 degrees F (that’s 45 C).

Since it’s been a while, I’ve got a few little stories to tell about what’s been going on hereabouts, so I’ll break the post into little vignettes.

The Blender

When last I wrote, I was in the throes of infatuation with my new high-powered blender. You may be wondering if the love still endures. Yes, indeed, it does, though it’s grown from the first-date excitement into a full-fledged committed relationship.

The off-brand blender is still going strong, and has only shut itself off twice — when blending a crazy concoction including whole golden beets and lots of frozen fruit, and, later, when tackling a block of frozen peaches that had I usually use a meat cleaver to break apart. And, yes, it shut itself off. After a brief rest, I reset it and it was back to business. I can’t remember whether I mentioned that this was one of the features I was looking for in a blender, but, after burning out the motor on my last device, I wanted to ensure it would shut off automatically under pressure rather than burn itself out entirely.

Since getting it, I’ve blended everything from the aforementioned beets and peaches to peanuts to chicken. It has made it easy to whip-up pesto-like sauces for pasta and pizza, and it really is easy to clean if you do it immediately. We’ve been generally eating more fruits and veggies, and getting all the fiber they can provide.

The Garden

Speaking of fruits and veggies, the garden is still…. there. Its main output this year has been lots and lots of basil, which is truly lovely but not as useful as the sweet potato greens I harvested last summer.

Thanks to free-roaming chickens and ravaging deer, it’s constantly under pressures from predators, so, whenever it starts to show real signs of flourishing, something comes along and chomps most of the greenery — including baby tomatoes, tiny squash and even adolescent watermelons.

It’s quite discouraging, I must admit, but a new gardening season is right around the corner and I’ve picked up some new seeds: spinach, kale and chard. All ingredients for those green smoothies!

The Chickens

pretend-eggs

These are fake eggs that you put into a nesting box to communicate to a chicken that “Eggs Go Here!”

And, while we’re on the topic of food, let’s talk about how we still have no eggs. Those freeloaders! Seriously, though, the chickens amaze me with their self-sufficiency. On some days, we let them out to wander around and eat bugs and grass, and they happily keep themselves occupied and full until the sun starts going down, when they start to make their way back to the coop. (This is a far cry from the neediness exhibited by the canines and felines — not to mention homo sapiens! — around here.)

Our biggest challenge right now is that we’ve been indulgent chicken-parents, and allowed them to sleep in the nesting boxes for FAR too long. I blocked them out of the boxes at first, not wanting them to get into the bad habit, but, somehow, my blocking measures were thwarted (with the help of an indulgent father), and they happily made their way every night to cuddle together right where they’re supposed to be laying eggs. At first they all fit into one nesting box, but, eventually, they’ve grown to the point where there’s at least one chicken in each of the four.

So, with the eldest of them reaching their 18-week birthday this week (when they may start laying), we decided it was high time to teach them to sleep on the roosts/perches like they are supposed to. Grown-up chickens sleep on perches, like regular birds, and it’s time for these coddled chicks to become real, producing livestock. My husband installed another, higher perch, as the lower one is kind of low and not very secluded, and the (literal) kicking out of the nest commenced!

So far, so good. They’re disturbed by the development, for sure, but things are coming along. The next project is to make some curtains to block off the nest boxes, so they’re separated more from the rest of the coop, providing the seclusion hens look for when seeking a place to lay. We’re hoping curtains also keep them out when they’re looking to get in for any purpose other than to lay. Time will tell!

Last weekend, we visited Sand Holler Farm and I developed a serious inferiority complex regarding the scale and quality of our little homestead operation.

goatsThey have an amazing set-up with a giant-sized garden surrounded by high fencing. And outside that fencing, ducks and chickens roam. The cheesemaking and goat milking areas made me swoon and my desires for a milk goat are strong these days. If you’re in the area, I’ll recommend a visit on one of their Sunday Funday Farmdays (announced on Facebook) or a stay in their little bed and breakfast. So cute!

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