Paddocks, Plums and Pied Pullets
After the washout of last Sundays Winter Food Garden workshop, and then agreeing to reconvene for a special half day workshop on Sunday July 28 ( places still open for that, only $65 each) the weather improved slowly across the rest of the week, and the last few days days have given us a great chance to get on top of the pruning, as well as sowing and planting the rest of the spring and early summer garden.
The first two crops of Greenfeast Peas and Roi de Carouby snow peas were sown on June 25, and July 10, and today's sowing of Onward peas will be followed by another on the 28th, where we will be showing those coming to the workshop how to sow peas to a double row of corn stalks saved from last years crop.
These will act as an organic trellis, and save a bit of time and work in that area, but when sowing to corn, there are a few little tricks that must be used.
The Sunday 28 sowing will be followed by another in mid August, and that six week sowing succession ought to cover us for the big day on November 24 – ensuring that we have plenty of fresh peas from the garden, for our guests.
So warm and balmy today and yesterday, that this evening I worked over the brassica bed (last summers beans) and sowed strips of red and green oak leaf lettuce, cos lettuce, Californian red onions, and cream gold onions for the late keeping crop.
Also planted hunter river brown and Californian red onion seedlings today, as well as oak leaf lettuce.
In the orchard, the winter prune and clean up of the bottom stone plantings are just about done – leaving wide thoughts of the big Greengage and King Billy plum trees to tackle next week.
Planting another four plums – Green Gage, Coles Golden Drop, President and King Billy – with Joanna tomorrow, as well as cleaning out two poultry pens, and will use that mulch directly around the new plum trees – after planting - and on the bottom, as well as spreading a very light sprinkle between the peas.
A beautiful weather day promised, and I can tell – by what she got done in just two hours today - that tomorrow, Jo will be unstoppable.
Must make sure I hit the bananas early, for breakfast: will need the extra energy, to try to keep up with her.
After the pens are cleaned out, we will move the last Autumn hatched pullets into new digs.
This is the amazing lot that have come out all pied – exciting possibilities of a new Barnevelder line in them, and that reminds me that I have to try each of the three cock birds form the last mating, in January – any of which may have been their father - in a single breed pen this year, to find which male has thrown the pied markings.
I have a fair idea which male it is, but need to make sure.
Set the incubator yesterday with the first of this year’s spring hatch – 102 eggs, which includes many dark, lustrous, superbly glossed and shaped eggs from the younger breed hens, among them.
I normally set the first eggs in the last week of June, but it's been a considerably colder winter this year, than we have had for a decade, and though last year's November hatched pullets have kept us in eggs right through the winter – as good Barnevelders should - the older breeding girls have been slow to come back in from the moult, due to the extra chill.
Because of that I held off for couple of weeks, waiting until I could get the incubator half full: it runs better with more thermal mass inside.
Already we have ten different breed pens made up for this year, with another two breeding pens to organize, and I will be splitting the Barnies up, next year, from two to four separated blood lines – two partridge, two double laced - and will continue work on the fifth and sixth lines – the Red and Pied Barnevelders, while keeping an eye open for the really darker birds suited to developing a line of All Blacks.
We have started the main breed flock (38 hens aged 3 to 13) with two 16 month full brothers, with perfect laced breasts and a big red factor, over the best hens in the flock mating shed. Only four or five of the 3 to 4year old hens laying at this stage, but that will go up by roughly 10% a week over the next eight weeks, until the 9 to 12 years olds kick in through October.
I will leave the DL cocks there to cover the first three settings, then in August will swap them for the 3 best black breasted dark partridge cockerels from the six brothers kept out of Hatch 1, last year, and will then follow - in September - with single weekly stints, two days each in and out - in turn, from each of the eight two and three year old males kept from 2010 and 2009 hatches.
From that – I have calculated – should hatch from about 10,000 plus possible genetic combinations.
Will also brood test the 2010 pullets, in September. Some very promising young, ultra dark egg laying hens in that lot.
Tom has moved back into post digging and ramming – has chalked up about 25 this year , so far, in the big new fencing program that we started last January - subdividing the river flats into four paddocks, the hill into four, and about to start rabbit and poultry netting the 200 mm section at the bottom of the hill separating the river flats from the new poultry run and next year's olive and fodder tree plantings.
Today's post is the first of two being dug for the new front gate – bloody hard work and really heavy going for the lad - chipping away patiently for three hours through a meter of rock and flint and mongrel marl.
I snuck out, after lunch – while he was checking his email – widening out the side and bottom of the hole, and defining a big brusier with the crow bar - to see if the great rock he had hit near the bottom was going to be the top of a massive floater, in which case I would have insisted on calling it a day, and going with the depth we had - already 850 mm.
He is such a stickler for finishing each task exactly, that I'm glad that it was just a large rock, and not the top of a five tonne boulder, because I could not be certain that he would not set out to shift the dang thing by hand – so strong he is - as well as so fiercely determined.
Just like Cath.
Anyway, he came back up the drive sooner than expected, and caught me red handed, butting into his days project, doing forbidden work - while I have this lower back issue - and quickly sent me packing back down to the garden.
Where would I have been without him - these last few years?
He is my strong right arm, and my rock, and the older he gets, the more of his beautiful mother that I see in him.
July 20 2012