summer abundance, and a year of eggs

We/I haven’t posted in eons, again. It’s not that farmstead life is slow or uneventful, but rather bursting at the seams and overflowing with amazement, awe and sheer but-kicking busyness.

That chicken coop I posted about before and promised a part two of its free construction and completion? It’s been done since the next day, sans paint, and so far has housed three rounds of babies, totalling 25 in all. We’ll be moving it to the garden sometime within the next week or two for my impending Swedish Flower Hen breeding endeavors (three out of four are laying, and the last is 6 weeks younger). The older girls are not yet 6 months old but by Spring, I’ll have plenty of hatching eggs and chicks available. If I ever end up painting the coop, I’ll post photos. But the main chicken coop, Cluckingham Palace, still isn’t painted either. Or the goat house, but that’s another post.

Despite our late start, our gardens are thriving. And the late start was not my fault. I had almost 200 (or 300?) starts die during our winter storm with the implosion of our greenhouse under snow weight and round two mostly became squished by neighbor cats thinking I planted them cozy plant beds. We have been harvesting and eating and even selling an abundance of zucchini, crookneck and yellow squash, round zucchini, lettuce, kale, rainbow chard, onions, tomatoes, green beans, purple beans, peas, herbs, chives, potatoes, cucumbers and a little bit of broccoli and cauliflower. The latter weren’t fond of our almost a hundred degree days in April and had a rough start. But I planted a ton more (plus more beans, greens, roots, etc.) so it’ll be great.

This also was the first year we got raspberries. We only got 6 but next year we’ll have 6,000. We got tons of blueberries and still are from some of our late season bushes, mountains of blackberries which is one of my favorite foods, and loads of plums, but mostly from friends and neighbors — we had a couple dozen of our own. Pears and apples are too many to keep up with. Oh and we had heaps of figs and some cherries. The deer ate most of the cherries along with all of our peaches and nectarines, mountains of apples from our baby trees and most of our plums. Not just the fruit but the leaves and branches. Thanks deer! I think I’m going to relocate 95% of our orchard in autum when the ground is nice and soft and the trees are more dormant so I can put 10 foot fences around them to allow them to establish themselves, then take the fences back down.

I’ve been loving doing lots of small batches of canning this year. So far I’ve done spiced fig and golden plum jam, garlicky Plum barbecue sauce, blackberry jam, apple pie Jam to use in baking or for the guys to put on French toast, blackberry apple spice jam which I only did one jar of because it was leftovers that wouldn’t fill a jar and I just added to it. Interestingly enough is pretty awesome. I’ve also done apple pear sauce, a crapload of pickled cucumbers and zucchini, and spiced plums. I still need to do some more maple bourbon plum butter and blackberry pear jam because those where everyone’s talk to favorites last year, along with pickled apples and 700 more apple sauce, plus salsa. I found a recipe for zucchini bread jam which I may try as well because we have so many zucchini! Oh, I also did pickled green beans. Pro tip: don’t pickle purple beans. They end up looking like long wrinkly alien appendages.

A couple of weeks ago was our one-year anniversary of when my very first chicken started laying eggs. I kept track because I wanted to see how many eggs we received from our girls in a year. It was kind of silly to count because we had anywhere between 8 and 30 layers at any given time with hatching out new ones, selling old ones, etc but we received exactly 3450 eggs in year 1. That’s 287.5 eggs per month, or 66.3 eggs per week on average (just over 5.5 dozen). Yay girls!! I only have a couple of weekly chicken egg customers but it’s perfect. We’ll have more laying hens this year so I’ll be able to sell more. For a while there we couldn’t sell our duck eggs for the life of us. We were giving them away by the dozen because our girls lay 20 times more than I read their breeds will lay. Now though, things have changed. We have waiting lists for duck eggs. We only have three ducks, one who is special needs and rarely lays, but we get over a dozen a week. It’s so funny when people now offer to prepay for eggs that haven’t yet been laid. So we are getting four more ducks. Three girls and a boy so not only will we have duck eggs for eating, we will have fertile duck eggs for hatching and ducklings available to anyone who wishes to buy them. Our duck breeds: Cayuga, White Layer, Saxony, Black Swedish and Chocolate Indian Runner. This autumn we should start breaking even on egg sales. Meaning we make as much selling eggs as their expensive food costs. Spring, especially with hatching eggs, chicks, ducklings and rare breed pullets, will mean I’m making a little profit. I think I’m profiting regardless. We used to spend a minimum of $56 a month on sub-par organic grocery store eggs.

I babble. Anyway, that’s what we’re up to. Just living the dream. I’ll do another post here in the next day or two (or month) to tell you about our new goats and likely share stories and photos about our impending gathering with friends and family. A bunch of people are coming down from Portland and it’s going to be lovely.

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