Wednesday, August 29

"Oh don't worry about me, I am just here for the food..."

I feel that in order to call yourself a 'homesteader' you have to 'stead' something, or care for something. The first things that come to my mind in 'homestead' terms are my gardens and my chickens. Nothing scream 'homestead!' like a bushel basket to fresh tomatoes and a flock of chickens running loose around the yard.
So, if my chickens don't like me and my garden is a big failure, can I still call myself a 'homesteader?'
Attack chicken out for a stroll...
Here is my problem: my chickens hate me. Not all of them, just a couple of the new girls. The one I call Crooked Toe is the worst. She will follow me into the coop every time I go in there and charges straight at me.

And not just when I have my back to her. She is very tricky about it in that she will run up to me trying to peck my legs and feet, but then suddenly turn her attention to the nearest feeder or font. She is running a decoy play. "Oh don't worry about me, I am just here for the food..." And when I bend down to check the nest boxes for eggs, I can hear the rustle of fast chicken feet approaching from behind. I stand up and turn around to see her right there, aiming for my leg with that sharp little beak.

I have verbally warned her many times and a few times since then I have nudged her back with my foot. But this girl has guts. She pulls these tricks every time and it is getting rather annoying. And, if there happens to be another one of the new six girls in the coop when this is going on, it turns into a 'gang up on Mom' moment. The other girls will start following me around also and I will have three sharp little beaks at my heels.
These new girls are aggressive, to say the least. But the eggs are coming. At first the size of a large marble, they have gotten progressively larger and can now be considered a marketable egg. The shells are still a little hard to crack and I refer to them as Cadbury Creme Eggs - tough shell and, given that the company makes them a little smaller each season, this coming Easter the Cadbury's will probably be about the size of a beginning layers egg.

Mr. Bun Bun, before he made his escape
My other 'steading' dilemma revolves around the fact that for the past 7 years, my garden has slowly gone from highly productive and almost fool proof to a big, weedy, massive plant failing mess.

Strange weather conditions, seed germination issues, woodchucks decimating the peas and beans, mysterious failures of all vine crops for three years in a row. Last week I noticed the next new problem. He will hence forth be referred to as 'Mr. Bun Bun'.

Named by the little man one evening when we saw him frantically squish his furry body through a fence rectangle, fleeing the scene of the crime. Mr. Bun Bun likes tomatoes. Romas seem to be his nightshade of choice. But I have noticed after observing that he will go for anything showing even the slightest shades of red. Just like the woodchucks, he is just here for the food.

The roma monster (and weeds. lots and lots of weeds)
Critter invasions aside, my garden this season is a pretty big failure. The tomatoes - the thing I stress about the most - are the only things, besides the potatoes, that are producing. In fact, tomato plants popped up in a few places where I did not even plant them. Remnant seeds from last seasons non-GMO crop.

One such plant turned into a the monster of all romas and completely took over the end section to the bean support fence. Given that no beans were growing on it, I let the tomato go and watched it grow into a massive entanglement of vine, stem, leaves and fruit.
Why not. Something should be growing, and if I am such a terrible gardener that the seed must plant itself and find its own trellis, then more power to it.
The beans did have a resurgence, at least near the tomato monster, and I have purple podded bean tendrils weaving through parts of the tomato plant. A little late in the germination there guys.....
Hey! Beans! Better late than never.
In general, I am lucky that this is a modern homestead and I can go to the grocery store, farmers market, or tap into my pantry storage when the garden produce goes south. I am in no way adopting an "Oh well....time to pack it in" attitude, it is just nice to know that I have options. And it am not giving up. I know I say this every season, but 'next year will be better.' Better plan, better seeds, better soil, better weed management. I am already researching soil amendments and trench composting, and I am going to reconfigure the fence and raised beds to make better use of space. Vertical trellis options for the beans and peas, as opposed to horizontal fencing and more herbs - both for cooking and medicinal uses.
It feels good to have a plan after so much disappointment.
Now, does anyone know anything about how to win a showdown with a nasty hen?

1 comment:

  1. We have several that will do that as well but they are looking for some attention. We pick them up and pet them although if you ignore them they will attack your legs. I found that if I wear long skirts they don't seem to want to do that. I think the fabric scares them a little but most of our hens are pretty friendly. Next batch we get we will be picking them up more and holding them more so they aren't so hard to catch. We give our hens treats every day. Bread is their favorite followed by watermelon. Yep we spoil them.