Chicks, Cleaning, And Canning

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Golden Buffs join our motley crew of free-range chickens

Time flies when you’re having fun, or in this case, when you’re working through the farm project list. These last few weeks have been filled with lots of “getting ready for winter” activities to make life better for humans and beasties, along with some cleaning up and clearing out of items no longer needed on this farm. That last part makes life better for me because I don’t have to move those unneeded things around!

Speaking of beasties, we got a batch of chicks from one of the Ohio hatcheries at the end of July. Our laying hens are getting up there in age, and egg production was beginning to drop, so instead of waiting until April or May of next year to get chicks in, we decided to get a late summer batch. I’ll be feeding them all winter while they grow, but hopefully, they will start laying once spring comes. I had heard good things about the Golden Buff (aka Golden Comet, depending on who is selling them) being a good chicken for pasturing/free-ranging, so we got two dozen of them. They’re not even two months old and are already ranging around with the older hens. They are active little chickens, they stay close to the buildings (well, at least right now – we’ll see if they get more adventurous as they grow), they know me as the Food Bringer, and they all go in the coop at night. I like them a lot so far!

Cleaning and canning have been the other two big-ticket items on the list. It constantly amazes me how I can cut piles and piles of brush in the spring, and have to do it all over again in the fall. It simply doesn’t end. Ever! More honeysuckle to cut down, more trees growing next to buildings, more spaces that have grown up that need cleared out. I had to start a new brush pile to handle all the debris that has accumulated in little piles here and there. I’m glad the temperatures are dropping below the 80 degree mark – makes it much easier for me to work outside, although I now need to be mindful to not overwork myself on any given day.

Food preservation has been going well – the shelves are starting to fill up with a little of this and some of that. We have an orchard nearby where I can get peaches and apples. A friend gave me a box of pears from her family’s orchard. I had the onions and jalapeños from my garden, but had to buy some local tomatoes to put up salsa. Zucchini went into the dehydrator and also the freezer. Another friend has a pawpaw patch at their home. I went picking there the other day and tried my hand at a pawpaw butter recipe I found on the internet. Didn’t turn out too bad! Being on Facebook helped a lot to find “tried and true” recipes and sources for local fruits and veg. Each time I stand in my kitchen with canning supplies all around me, spatters on the stove, sink full of pots and pans to wash, and a load of food debris to take to the chickens, I am very thankful for both the ability and means to preserve my own food, as well as the abundance of local foods I have to choose from to do so. I’m also thankful for the availability of grocery stores and the variety of fresh, frozen, and canned foods on the shelves.

Very thankful for my friend and her pawpaw patch

And I need to get the garlic in the ground – we’ve already had light frosts the last two nights! I’ve been buying garlic from friends of ours and saving out the largest cloves to plant in my raised beds. Growing garlic is fun to me – you put it in the ground in the early fall, it starts to grow a little bit, then just holds on for the winter. Come spring, the shoots green up, and by summer, you have garlic ready to harvest! I usually cover mine with some straw or leaves. Since the leaves aren’t falling quite yet, I guess it will be straw this time.

Garlic cloves, ready to plant!

Lest anyone think that these are the only things I’ve been up to, never fear! There is still fence to install and fence to repair (and even some fence to take down), people and beasties to care for (including myself!), fiber and pottery, walks to enjoy, stories to write, winterizing to complete, and I’m even planning what to grow in next year’s garden!

How are you planning for winter? Any projects that need finished before the snow flies?