Weekly Digs #11

I’ve been kind of dreading writing this post today. Sometimes I really want to gloss over the hard things that happen here. We had two sets of chicks growing and thriving in our basement. The ones we incubated and the others we bought early in the season, about 7 weeks ago.

My bigger chicks I put in the chicken tractor every day last week when it was warm and dry. My stinky basement needed some relief! The chicks were so happy. One night when it was going to stay above 60 in the evening, I decided they should start spending the night outside.

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I locked them in the tractor, and covered it with 2 blankets because the chicks were chirping and I didn’t want any predators to see them. Our chicken tractor was slapped together with recycled materials including chicken wire and I knew that raccoons could still stick their paws in there. With the blankets covering all access I went to bed.

Cameron got up at 4:45am for a run. He checked on the birds who were still happily chirping away and then left. When he got back at 6am he found 3 dead chicks in the tractor and 2 missing. We are quite certain it was a raccoon as that is our main predator here.

I felt so terrible for leaving them in such a vulnerable position. That raccoon managed to get under the blankets, pull back the back the hooked bungie cord that was securing the door just enough to slip in a 1 inch gap. We know he got in there because we saw feathers in the gap at the door. They are smart creatures.

My kids were much tougher than me and helped Cameron go and bury the dead ones. I watched from the window and cried. I know I should toughen up. Even though we’ve butchered and eaten some of our full grown chickens this was a very different experience. Having a helpless baby die for no reason seemed so wrong.

This has motivated us to build the most secure chicken tractor ever. I have 7 more chicks that will be going outside soon enough and I’m determined they will not suffer the same fate.

In the garden:

  • I transplanted my lettuce, some fennel, and the first of my zinnias and sweet alyssum.

  • We are prepping an area next to the house for another kids garden. They really want more space. This area isn’t going to be fenced so they are going to be limited on what they can grow that won’t get eaten by deer.

  • The first asparagus spear popped up!

  • Blueberries are flowering and looking good.

  • Blackberries have come to life, though I will say a few of my very strong ones some of the leaves are yellowing in places. It happened right after a 35 degree night so it may be the cold. I added compost and some cottonseed meal to feed them just in case it’s a nitrogen thing. I just looked at my records and it looks like the only time I’ve had the soil tested was before they went in the ground 3 years ago. I’m going to collect a sample this week to take to my cooperative extension office.

Basil is so pretty in its seed tray I don’t want to transplant it!

Basil is so pretty in its seed tray I don’t want to transplant it!

Indoor Seed Starting:

  • I’m still working on hardening off the seeds I started. Everything is going outside and inside each day weather permitting.

  • My indeterminate tomatoes are so big. Next year, I’m going to need to start them a week or two later. They got transplanted in large plastic cups but at this point its just getting ridiculous to carry them in and out of the house everyday to harden off. The cups easily tip over because the tops are so tall.

It’s not as big of a deal with any of my determinate tomatoes. They are short and stocky and looking healthy as they should. The peppers doing great as well, though I noticed a few aphids yesterday. I washed them off with water and it looks like it helped.

In the kitchen:

Cameron keeps watching all these Netflix food shows and he got inspired to start making homemade pasta. I have to say, it is really good when it’s fresh. In an effort to help him make the process faster, I used the pasta attachment I have on my juicing machine for the noodles. Unfortunately, the dough was so thick it broke a piece on my machine! He’s been doing it all by hand with a rolling pin ever since then. I think a dedicated pasta machine may be in our future. Or perhaps a different recipe haha :)

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