Friday, July 4, 2014

A Week of Firsts

N and the boys and I spent the week of the June 23rd with is family in a rental cottage north of Baltimore.  It was a hard-earned vacation, coming on the heels of N's trip to Pennsylvania for a week-long conference.  By the time we came back I was much more relaxed - enough to spontaneously invite over K and family.  And, while showing off features of my chicken coop to K's husband C, guess what I found?

TWO eggs!  I wasn't letting myself expect eggs until July, and I was so distracted in the vacation haze that I didn't realize how close that was.  We've had one egg every day since then.  They're great!  They're perfect!  They're brown!  They're...really small.  My chickens are supposed to lay large eggs, so I'm assuming that they'll get bigger with time.  I still don't know which of the lovely ladies is laying them, but I'm hoping to figure it out this weekend while I'm home and can keep an eye on them.  On weekdays they lay after I've left for the day.

Another first in the garden this week - wheat!  Last fall I planted wheat, peas, and oats as a cover crop in the side yard.  I pulled out the oats when they started to make seed.  (In retrospect this seems foolish, but it is what they tell you to do for green manures.  Pulling it at the seed-forming stage leaves the most nitrogen in your soil.)  The peas winter-killed on their own, and then in the spring, something came up.  I kind of thought it was the oats coming back, but...dun, da-da-dun!  It was wheat, and it started forming heads.  I had planned to plant some zucchini in that side yard, but at the last minute I decided to make room for it at the community garden.  So I just let the wheat keep growing.

I pulled the plants out by the roots, then snipped off the dirty roots and dropped them in the chicken run (the hens like searching through roots for insects).  Then I snipped off the grain heads and spent -oh- about 6 hours removing the grains from the heads.  Traditionally this is done by banging the stalks against the inside of a barrel, or beating them on the floor with bats/clubs, but it was such a small quantity that I thought surely I could just sit in front of the TV and pretend I was shelling peas.  But...the thing is...I don't plant shelling peas anymore for a reason.  If I had it to do again, I would plant a lot more wheat, and buy/build a threshing machine.  And I have to agree with the lady on the YouTube video - it is ridiculous that this grain is the foundation of western civilizaition.  Ridiculous.  From my six hours of labor I got just under one cup of threshed and winnowed wheat.  But, I will say that it is crazy tasty, like tiny little nuts that you would probably eat all the time if they weren't so hard to get at.

There were also a couple more firsts this week, though less exciting.  My new currant bush has ripe (?) berries on it.  Incredibly tart, ripe (?) berries.)  I'll have to see if they get any sweeter before they fall off.  Also, I had the most unusual harvest Wednesday night.  The long, cool, moist spring that we had is resulting in an unusually long spring harvest, coupled with an unexpectedly early summer harvest.  I picked: lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, blackberries, snap peas (the last), onions, and kale.  What a strange year 2014 is shaping up to be.

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