After the long silence of a brutally cold winter, the cacophony of this spring is outrageously wonderful. Even the nights are conspicuously noisy with the peeping of frogs and the peenting of woodcocks (also known by the adorable name of “timberdoodle”) These unusual birds have such a comical look, with long bills and tubby bodies held up on stubby legs. Each evening a small group of them has been overnighting in my garden, probably drawn to the earthworms, their favorite food. Bluebirds have returned to our area too, with the brightly colored males sweetly declaring ownership of their chosen perch. They have been showing interest in the birdhouse that my children made with a little help from their papa as well! My chickens have taken notice of the changing seasons too, and we are finally finding eggs in the nesting boxes again after a long hiatus. I am always taken aback by the differences when I crack open the first home grown egg of the year after a long winter of store bought eggs. The shells are thicker, the yolks are dark gold rather than pale yellow, the flavor is rich and delicious with just a little salt and a few drops of Sriracha. Would you like to see a demonstration? Of course you would:
Store bought egg is on the left, home grown egg is on the right.
Notice the green shells of my Ameracauna eggs. This breed is one of my favorites, in fact if I could keep only one breed this would be it! The coloring of the hens is varied, their personalities are friendly, and they are hardy and low maintenance. And they have the cutest fluffy cheek patches! It gives them a charming salty-sea-dog sort of look. Yaaaarrrrrr! I also have Barred Rocks, New Hampshire Reds, and Cuckoo Marans. Soon I will be getting more chicks, and maybe I will discover a new favorite breed, but until then these girls are hard to beat!
Ameracauna pullet, Miss Gingersnaps
Sick children have taken precedence lately, but I will try to squeeze in a quick post while I catch my breath momentarily! I’m afraid that whatever the children have rather resembles the stomach flu, and I’ve come down with a terrible case of spring fever as well! Springtime in Missouri is a tumultuous time. Bluebirds are scoping out this year’s nesting site, geese are flying high overhead, and my chickens are showing renewed interest in the tiny sprouts of grass that are peeking out through last year’s dead sod. The wise native trees have yet to show any greenery, they know full well that today’s gentle warmth could be cruelly cold and re-frozen in the next moment. I went to a fruit tree pruning workshop recently with the Young Farmer’s Group, and gained the confidence to make some well placed cuts on our young orchard. I have finally started a few flats of seedlings (mostly herbs, greens, cabbages, eggplants, and peppers), and still need to clear the winter’s accumulated clutter and fire wood out of my greenhouse to make way for the oncoming deluge of transplants.
I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of my roselle seed, which sprouted the day after sowing despite the fact that the seed is about 3 years old! I bought the seed from Baker Creek Seeds, and if you’ve never heard of them you are in for such a treat! They have an incredible selection of heirloom seeds, and have signed on to the Safe Seed Pledge, so you can be sure it’s all non-GMO. Roselle is a kind of hibiscus, and the calyces are used to make Red Zinger tea. The tea has a pleasant sweet-tart taste and a gorgeous red colour. It’s such a fun plant to grow, and in our summer heat and humidity can grow dramatically huge, flowering in the fall with pretty cream coloured hibiscus blooms. Perhaps this year I’ll also try making a jelly out of it. I still have a freezer full of last year’s berries that are waiting to be dealt with however…