Monday, February 27, 2012

Current Plantings

On the veggie front, mixed lettuce, Russian Red Kale and Tatsoi is started in the greenhouse.  Can't wait for those first succulent greens of spring.    Beets (one for tops, one for root) are also started along with peas.   The asparagus look like they'll be coming up soon too.   MMmmmm! - grilled with a little olive oil, sprinkled with lemon and S&P or perhaps with hollandaise???   Decisions, decisions, decisions.  

Peep Progress

The January hatch is now outside in the coop without heat lamps.  Fully feathered and looking nice.  I think my mystery chick is a cockerel.  The first hatched leghorn cross is probably also a cockerel - judging by the large red pea comb he's sporting; however, his feather pattern is silver hen with patches of white.

The February hatch is in the final stages of feathering.  The two groups of Euskal Oiloa are looking pretty good.  Variety of color and pattern on these birds is simply gorgeous.  I can't wait to see what they look like in a few more weeks.  Based on feather colors it looks like I have about four cockerels with the remainder pullets.  Hopefuly I will know for certain before the TSC Swap in Midlothian on March 10th.

Here is a picture of the older peeps followed by a picture of the peep four days younger.

The Serama are doing well too.  Variety of sizes and colors.  Here is a picture taken last weekend when they were only a week old.  Two tiny and two small.

As for my last hatch, the eggs are at the half way mark.  Only one silkie egg looks like it is developing, the remaining four have separated air sacks and did not develop.  The same thing happened with the Holland eggs.  I am so disappointed but there is a chance I'll be able to find another half dozen Holland eggs this summer.  This breed is so rare right now it is crucial that anyone who can, try to save them.

The Silver Ameraucana, Bearded Buff Laced Polish and Black Langshan eggs are all progressing nicely.   Lockdown in one week.  This will be my last hatch until the chickens reach point of lay in late summer, early autumn or perhaps next spring.

My layer flock chicks from McMurray will arrive at the end of March; then it is a wait until the chicks are old enough (4 months) for the Pullorum and AI tests.     A pair (or trio) of Serama youngsters (6 months more or less) should also arrive sometime in May.  Can't wait!

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Seeds are In

Last night we recieved three inches of wet, heavy snow which's time to start thinking about starting those vegetable seeds.   For the 2012 growing season we will plan Blue Lake snap beans, Green Arrow shelling peas, Tatsoi, Red Russian Kale, Beets for both greens and root, Italian frying peppers, White Wonder and Marketmore 76 cukes, King Sieg leeks and Galeux d'Eysines winter squash.  We've reduced our selection of tomatoes four (unless Ramapo arrives in time) - Tropic, Sophie's Choice, Black Plum (paste tomato) and Japanese Black Truffle.  Also for this year, for the first time, we are planting Okra - Hill Country Heirloom Red and Alabama Red.   As usual we will have a nice variety of basils, including Lime, as well as sunflowers.   Unfortunately we were unable to order our garlic in time so we will not have any this year.

The January hatch is growing well and acclimating to the outdoors with the help of a heat lamp for those really cold nights.  Soon we will be able to figure out which are male and which are female.   Two of the splash Marans do not have leg feathering; they will be for sale - male or female.   The February chicks are growing like gangbusters and just feathering out.  Below is a picture of two chicks hatched on the same date:  a Euskal Oiloa (large) and a tiny Serama.

Our last hatch is four days into set in the incubator.   Unfortunately the Barred Holland eggs do not appear to be developing at all. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February Hatch Has ARRIVED!

The February hatch has arrived!  Nine Euskal Oiloa peeps, five lavender Ameraucana, two EE mixes and four Serama.   One little Serama almost didn't make it.  He was the last to arrive during the night and when I checked the incubator this morning, I found him upside down and stuck to the mat.  Poor baby!  After carefully moistening the mat to un-stick him, he had trouble finding his feet.   With a little help from a circle of eggs, he learned how to use those legs.  Finally, he is in the brooder with his siblings.   I call him the fourth Musketeer.

First Three Serama chicks hatched 2-10-12

Fourth Musketeer on the far left.

Brooder full of peeps.

"This food is mine, all mine!"

Serama Peep

First hatched Serama - the peep with attitude!
Lavender Ameraucana Day Old Peep
Euskal Oiloa (Basque Hen) Day Old Peep

The January hatch chicks have moved to their new digs too.   The gang loved having all that room to move around.   For some reason they ignored the feeder to scratch in the bedding.  Silly chicks!    Some of them have developed good sized, red colored combs.  I  suspect they are roosters but we'll have to wait and see.  The two clean legged splash marans chicks (I think one is a hen, one a roo) will be available at the first Powhatan TSC Swap meet on March 31st.   See you there!

Clean Legged Splash Marans Pullet

Splash Marans (clean leg cockerel in front) and Silver Leghorn/EE pullets.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Quest for the Perfect Tomato

When January rolls around it's time for the annual search for the tomato of my childhood memories; a big, soft, deep red beauty just bursting with that tangy tomato flavor.  For years I've remembered it as the Rutgers tomato (hybridized in 1934 by Rutgers agricultural college, now University) and every year I've planted seeds only to be disappointed at harvest.  Don't get me wrong, the Rutgers hybrid is a nice tomato, but it isn't quite THE tomato I remember.  So every winter, I pore over the catalog descriptions, study the photos and order a few likely prospects in the heirloom category in hopes of finding a suitable substitute for THE one.  I've found some great tomatoes along the way - Brandywine, Japanese Truffle, Black Krim and Persimmon - but none of them were IT.

I've also tried the local and wildly popular Hanover tomato, but I just don't get it.  Perhaps it is because I'm a Jersey (tomato) girl at heart; the Hanover, while meaty and succulent, doesn't even come close to the best in flavor for me.  The skin is a tad bit tougher than I like too.  I guess that's not a bad thing since we're growing in Powhatan soils, not Hanover soils, which according to enthusiasts is the raison d'etre (le terroir mon cherie! a.k.a. location, location, location) for their tomatoes.  Therefore, I can't really grow true Hanovers anyway.

This year I decided to do a little internet surfing and stumbled on the Jersey Tomato Project .  YES!!!  Ramapo, it has to be Ramapo!  This tomato looks exactly like I remember and the softness of the fruit is even listed as a flaw --- Ha!  Not a flaw in my book!  The clincher?  It was hybridized in 1968 by...drum roll please...Rutgers!  Much to my chagrin, it may not be possible to get seeds this year, but you'd better believe I'm on the waiting list!

Here's to the Jersey Tomato!