Can you feel it?

It is coming whether we acknowledge it or not. Spring of course, is what I am referring to. I can tell because the hens are really “pouring it on” , as far as laying goes, that is. And the roosters….well, let’s say they are becoming more frisky. Poor hens!

washed eggs

newly washed eggs

Look at all the amazing shapes, sizes, and colors! Can’t find those in a carton in the grocery store. I have a mix of hybrid hens, contemporary hens, and heritage hens. Can’t say I’m in love with the hybrid girls. (Don’t tell them I said that!) They lay the most “grocery store” type of egg. Well, that is what they are bred for. So, my mix is truly fun. Sometimes the eggs are oblong. Other times round. And if you weren’t aware, those “malformed” eggs are off to become the “ready-made” eggs, or to the bakeries, because we must never see them in their imperfect form! Heaven forbid!!

So I say YAY! to imperfect eggs! Happy eating!

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Unexpected find

The question that I have been asking myself for several weeks now has been answered. Why are my hens producing so few eggs when they are still in prime egg laying years? The answer is, they are sneaky. Yes, sneaky. As I showed on my post “found with a keen eye”, some hens like to hide their eggs, or I would think if not actually being sneaky, they want privacy.  Looks like we found the “mother load” this time! 42 eggs in all. Thank the stars the weather had been cold but not freezing, to the point of cracking the eggs.

Eggs under welding bench

Eggs under welding bench

The story goes, 2 hens, that were not supposed to be out of the secured chicken yard, got out in the morning while bringing them fresh water. There are times you do not have the time to catch a “loose” hen. This was one of them. By the time I got home from work, it was dark outdoors. So my chicken assistants, a.k.a my children, got on their coats and grabbed flashlights to go find where those two silly hens were bedding down for the night. Well, we looked high and low for the girls. And in doing so, one of my children found the ultra huge very out-of-the-way hidden nest. It was actually two nests close to one another. This was the unexpected find. Nice!

There is a sad note. The two hens I just spoke of were never seen again. One was a young hen that was born in the chicken coop this past spring. Her other clutchmates  were eaten while quite young. Looks like they were not destined to stay with me; rather, they were meant to be a wild animal’s meal. What a way to go! I did find the attack area and several very nice feathers. So, I collected them, so her life would not be a total loss for us. My son decorated a lovely crafted picture frame which included her feathers. They are the three white ones.

homegrown frame!

homegrown frame!

The other of the two hens was one of the only two remaining from my very first clutch of chicks. That was nearly  6 years ago. She was a beautiful girl, one of my favorites, an Australorp. A fine setter and wonderful mother.  At least I have one hen left from the originals, and she is an Australorp, too.

I couldn’t see fit to sell the eggs we found, so I gave them to family. They are wonderful and never complain about such things as eggs found under a welding bench. That’s just how it is around here on our homestead. I must say, it is forever interesting!

42 found!

42 found!

What is going on?

Molting Laced Wing Wyandotte

Molting Laced Wing Wyandotte

I understand that chickens, hens that is, slow down in their egg laying during the fall/winter months due to the lack of daylight. I have had chickens for almost 6 years now. So, I have had time to live this. But this year takes the cake with the slow, if almost nonexistent, egg production of my hens.

I have looked over old record and my oldest hens, numbering only two at this point I am sad to say, are nearly 6 years old. As far as I’m concerned, 2 is not going to make the impact that I am seeing this winter, on a flock that numbers in the  40s. The next oldest “batch” are going to be 3 in the summer. Still in their laying prime. So what?!   They get a more  diverse diet than the average American does. Fresh organic fruit & veg scraps from our local awesome market! Leftover pasta,bread,stir-fry, whatever we have. They are well fed.

I thought that maybe a vermin was stealing the eggs. Not snakes, they are dormant now. So possibly a weasel or raccoon, but they would kill a chicken or four just for fun, sad to say. So what in the world is going on?

People have suggested placing a light in their coop to simulate daylight. You know, I wonder if the chickens would think,” it’s still light out”, & go outside, then go,”no it’s not” & go back in, and back & forth. Sorry to say, if you are not aware, chicken were not given the largest brains for their head size in nature. But they are sure funny,interesting, & give me food….sometimes!

The hens have been molting since late summer. Molting , which is a natural loss & reproduction of feathers, most definitely stops their egg production. All their energy goes into making new feathers. This makes sense. But…not even 1/2 the hens molted. So still, why the lack of eggs?!?

Prince, the #1 rooster.

Prince, the #1 rooster.

Solo, the rooster we saw hatch in out incubator. #2 rooster

Solo, the rooster we saw hatch in out incubator. #2 rooster

Gallioth, #3 rooster.

Gallioth, #3 rooster.

To conclude this stream of thought, I am going to give the hens, there are 3 beautiful roosters also, apple cider vinegar with “mother” (look it up if you do not know what it is) in their water. Hope this will make a difference in there “innards”.

Treasures found with a keen eye.

surprise eggs

surprise eggs

It always amazes people who know me, what a keen eye for detail I have . I see things most people overlook. This is, of course, a blessing and a curse. I would prefer to think of it as a blessing. I will give some recent examples:

My husband was bringing the fallen leaves to our veg garden and I said, ” I hope you didn’t cover over the cilantro”. He had no idea what I was talking about. Seeing as how there were many types of weeds mixed together in the area, I could see how he could have easily overlooked the cilantro plants. Funnily enough, there were 5 cilantro plants growing in the lower part of the garden. They were brought up from a plant I let self-seed 2 years ago! Commmmme on, now that is cool. 2 years ago?! I was trying a technique I read about, which was tilling the soil every 6 weeks in order to bring up the new weed seed  to exhaust the supply. Yeah, that’s another post… But lo & behold, there are 5 amazingly healthy cilantro plant! One of my favorite herbs. What a nice unexpected gift!

The second part of the amazing was, I was covering over the straw that I have for various things on the homestead, when to my delight there were eggs laying in a patch of fallen leaves. These eggs were from at least 3, if not 4, different hens. It is one of the many interesting things I find about keeping chickens.   They like to lay their eggs where others have already layed them.  I guess they think, “well, this looks like a good spot”. Silly hens.  It had been very cold and surprisingly no cracks in the eggs from the plummeting temperatures. I have found in the past that if it is extremely cold out, the eggs will produce hair-line cracks from freezing. Mother Nature was helping me out again. I just love when she rewards me with unexpected gifts!

Garlic, one of my favorites!

I have heard before, don’t know if it’s true, that in the Middle Ages, garlic and onion were considered the common man’s herb. The low life folks food. Guess that’s me then!  My garlic was amazingly wonderful this summer. I will be using these same garlic cloves, that I harvested in July, to reproduce itself for me next summer.

It is truly one of the many things that keeps me going about gardening. It’s many miracles. People ask me often about garlic. They can hardly understand how one clove of garlic can produce an entire head of garlic. Amazing huh?! I think so.

There are so many varieties of garlic, it’s sad how limited the grocery stores are of their variety. I do not even think people realize there IS a variety of garlic. Just like carrots. Carrots used to be sold in purple, red, and yellow variety. Main stream wanted orange. So now it’s orange. So orange, that folks do not know there are other colors. See where I’m going with this?

Freshly harvested garlic

Freshly harvested garlic

The actions of garlic are amazing. I love it in a culinary way. But when you find out how amazing it is for us, in a medicinal way, well, it is simply mind blowing! And to think back to the colonial days, only the low blood would consume garlic and onion.

I cut and pasted these actions and indications of garlic off of www.healthy.net . Thank you Healthy.net!! You saved me loads of typing.  😉

Actions: Anti-microbial,  diaphoretic,  cholagogue,  hypotensive,  anti-spasmodic.

Indications:  Garlic is among the few herbs that have a universal usage and recognition. Its daily usage aids and supports the body in ways that no other herb does. It is one of the most effective anti-microbial plants available,  acting on bacteria,  viruses and alimentary parasites. The volatile oil is an effective agent and as it is largely excreted via the lungs,  it is used in infections of this system such as chronic bronchitis, respiratory catarrhrecurrent colds and influenza. It may be helpful in the treatment of whooping cough and as part of a broader approach to bronchitic asthma. In general it may be used as a preventative for most infectious conditions,  digestive as well as respiratory. For the digestive tract it has been found that Garlic will support the development of the natural bacterial flora whilst killing pathogenic organisms. In addition to these amazing properties,  Garlic have an international reputation for lowering both blood pressure,  blood cholesterol levels and generally improving the health of the cardio-vascular system.  A recent study was conducted on two groups,  one consisting of 20 healthy volunteers who were fed Garlic for 6 months and the other of 62 patients with coronary heart disease and raised serum cholesterol. Beneficially changes were found in all involved and reached a peak at the end of 8 months. The improvement in cholesterol levels persisted throughout the 2 months of clinical  follow-up. The clinicians concluded that the essential oil of Garlic possessed a distinct hypolipidemic,  or fat reducing,  action in both healthy people and patients withcoronary heart disease. Garlic should be thought of as a basic food that will augment the body’s health and protect it in general. It has been used externally for the treatment of ringworm and threadworm.

Planting garlic is quite easy. I amend the soil with rabbit bedding. This includes manure and moistened straw. And of course, some leftover food. Which is compressed grain. Nitrogen rich everything!

The garlic can go in as early as October around here in  Maryland. Some could possibly put it in earlier. I have planted garlic as late as the end of November. Truly, I cannot say there is much difference in harvest time. It seems to finish up in July.

I noticed a difference with my garlic that was mulched with rabbit bedding, topping the garlic bed as I changed it, and garlic left without. Manure and straw top dressed made the plants larger and generally healthier. Thanks, bunnies!

This summer I harvested the garlic earlier that I thought I should, according to the outward appearance of the top growth. From what I read, the top growth was supposed to have died back , pretty much, completely.

Freshly harvested garlic

Freshly harvested garlic

Happy I took a peek when I did. Which I mean, took a garlic bulb out of the ground to “have a look”. Making sure the paper on the garlic was formed completely and not deteriorating . Most of the garlic was in a perfect state to harvest. So I dug it with a shovel. Making sure to stay clear of the bulb its self. This is what I got! Laid out to dry on the picnic table in the shade.

I must say, Music is a wonderful “full body” garlic. I would recommend it for this area. The elephant garlic is fun, because of the size, but mild. Your choices are more varied than you think. Take a look at some of my favorite seed distributors, listed on my main page. You will be surprised how many types of garlic there are to choose from. Life should be fun, try something new! I always do.

Drying out for 2 day's in the shade.

Drying out for 2 days in the shade.