Sunday Morning Surprise

A surprise waited for me when I went out to the garden this morning to gather some greens for an omelet. Poppies. And more poppies.

They weren’t in bloom yesterday when I gathered lettuce, arugula, shungiku  春菊, and garlic scapes for Saturday’s farmers market in Mt. Vernon.

Every year the bed of poppies grows. I planted a few of them once, years ago, and since then, every spring, hundreds, maybe thousands of poppies spring out of the ground, rise chest high, and spread their feathery, purple petals.

In their centers, their seed pods are already taking shape. By late summer, the dried seed pods will rattle in the wind from the thousands of tiny seeds inside. A good many of their black seeds will end up in my poppy seed jam and machkuchen. The rest will tumble to the soft soil, and rise next spring, stretching their light green, frilly leaves up to the sky, and surprise me once again, when their flowers pop open unexpectedly one June morning, and dance at the tips of their slender stalks.

Sunday morning is a good time to take in the beauty of potato flowers; to turn the compost so the ducks can have a morning feast of earthworms; and pick garlic scapes, arugula, and shungiku 春菊 for a breakfast omelet made with duck eggs.

Posted in How Things Grow | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Under Cobalt Skies

Towering clouds, cobalt blue skies, perfect weather for potatoes to blossom.

How many have pictures of stunning potato blossoms in their mind when they eat a potato? The first of the potatoes are starting to bloom. Others are waist high, their verdant leaves shimmering in the sun. And others, I planted less than a week ago, have yet to push their leaves out of the ground. Which is what I love about potatoes. You can plant them month after month.

What goes through a bee’s mind when it enters a cavernous peony? Many of the flowers bees visit aren’t much bigger than the bee. Many smaller. But a peony, compared to a bee, is huge. Is there any trepidation at entering such a massive flower? Any fears of not being able to get back out, or is there just pure exhilaration at encountering a massive flower with more nectar and pollen than a bee could possibly consume?

Posted in How Things Grow | Leave a comment

Everything Is Something’s Best Food

Everything is something’s best food, and nothing is more relished by ducks than slugs. The ducks have cleaned out the slugs from the vegetable garden, so when I found a handful of slugs outside of the garden, it was a chance to show how much they loved slugs.

How many slugs will a duck eat before it won’t eat any more? That is a question that will take more research.

Posted in Reflections | Tagged | Leave a comment

Is She or Isn’t She?

Is she or isn’t she? That was the question today. Quackers was spending a lot of time during the day on her nest. By late afternoon it was clear she had gone broody and was incubating a clutch of seven eggs. So in early July, there may be seven ducklings she will be raising.

It is the mothering season. Baby chicks must have the most comfortable of all beds, and coziest naps.

The bees are having a heyday in the fiery torch blossoms. Bees and other insects may be struggling in many parts of the world, but on these five acres, with no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, or fungicides, and lush vegetation everywhere, they thrive.

The delight of this time of year is always being able to pick a salad while I’m making a meal. A snip here and there, and in just a minute or two, I’m carrying a fresh salad back into the house to enjoy.

Posted in How Things Grow | Leave a comment

Vegetables Gone Wild

The potato plants are lush with green, on the verge of sending up their flower stalks. Rubystreaks are in bloom, their dainty yellow flowers beckoning the bees to kiss them. I first planted Rubystreaks four or five years ago. Their dark, purple leaves light a fire in your mouth. Chopping them up and adding them to a salad will make any drab salad a conversation piece.

Let them go to seed, and they will come up year after year, saving you the work of having to plant them. There are many vegetables like that. Potatoes, arugula, other mustards, kales, oregano, marjoram, chives just to mention a few, that you only need to plant once.

The fruits on the Asian pear, Nashi 梨, are about ready to be thinned and bagged. I like to leave one or two fruit per cluster. The fewer the fruit, the bigger.

Yesterday I witnessed a most curious bee and buttercup flower encounter. The bee was so enamored with what the buttercup flower had to offer, that it buzzed round and round, ripping off each petal to dig deeper into the flower. By the time it was done sucking up all the nectar the flower had to offer, all the petals were gone. Bees have been observed making nests out of flower petals, (see Busy Bees Use Flower Petals For Nest Wallpaper), but the bee I watched did not fly off with any of the petals it ripped off.

Any day that starts with watching a duck nest is a good day.

Posted in How Things Grow | Leave a comment

Hide ’n Go Seek

There is a deep sense of accomplishment when you finally catch a runaway chick after stalking it for three hours. This little chick was well trained by its mother. Something spooked some of the chicks and three of them scrambled out of the woods and found a small opening in the wire fence. Two were easy to herd back to their mother. This one went the other way and disappeared into the brush along a ditch.

Impossible to find, I went to work, quietly clearing brush in the ditch, something that needed doing anyway. After a long pause, the chick started chirping for its mother, which gave me the chance to get close to it, and get it to move in the direction of the chicken yard.

Each time it ran a little distance and disappeared in the brush, and after working nearby, after fifteen to twenty minutes, it would chirp again, and I could get it to move closer to the chicken yard.

After three hours, it ran up to the fence of the chicken yard and I was able to corner it and catch it. As soon as it saw its mother, it went running to her.

The yellow iris are in bloom, attracting numerous bees.

The peonies are in bloom too, scenting the air with their sweet fragrance.

Friends have given us bags of pine cones, so I spent part of an afternoon running them through the shredder to turn them into mulch. The shredder says right on it that it can handle branches up to 2 and a half inches. Ha! I think when they were testing it, they were using a metric ruler and read 2.5 centimeters, not 2.5 inches. Try and run a branch that thick through the shredder, and you will give the shredder irritable bowel syndrome in no time.

The shredder sat unused for several years after we gave up on it the first year. I’ve made peace with it, am aware of its issues with colitis, and feed it matter in bite size chunks. Two cones, three cones at a time, and it will munch away contentedly for hours. The same with branches and shrubbery. Nothing too big, ignore the “up to 2.5 inches” label on the side, stick to sticks and branches not much more than an inch wide, and it will purr away, spitting out nice mulch all day long.

All this wonderful mulch, and to think that the carbon the mulch is made from was floating in the air, drifting round and round the world until the pine tree sucked the carbon out of the air and turned it into pine cones. People with very smart brains have yet to figure out a simple method to pull carbon out of the air, yet plants, with no brains, have it all figured out and do it easily. There is a lot of intelligence in plants. They know how to do rather spectacular things, remarkable for things with no brains.

The towering cottonwood turn silver when the summer winds blow their leaves inside out. Wisteria drench the summer breeze with their perfume. Out in the garden, one of the persimmon trees I planted last fall has sprouted. There are four more, and several of them look like they will sprout soon too. What joy. With luck, in three years we will have persimmons.

Posted in About My Chickens, How Things Grow | Leave a comment

Are They Free Range?

“Are your hens free range?” It’s a question I get asked regularly at the farmers market. For the most part, the chickens roam through woodland. They seem to enjoy thick brush more than anything. At times they are out on open grass, but they spend most of their time in the understory of the woods.

Lee has gone broody on an empty nest. Today, I put four duck eggs underneath her for her to hatch. If all goes well, there will be four ducklings for her to raise around June 20 to 21.

The marjoram I planted several years has come on strong this year. It’s a lighter green than oregano, and makes for a beautiful ground cover along the path to the tofu cabin. I can see why the Greeks and Romans considered it a symbol of happiness.

Posted in About My Chickens | Tagged , | Leave a comment