July is one of my favorite months here on the farm. My plants are finally starting to look healthy; everything is a beautiful bright green, and with the exception of the cucumbers, all the leaves are perfect. The cucumbers, unfortunately, seem to have more issues than National Geographic this season. The leaves are turning numerous shades of brown, and the stems can only be described as woody-looking. Not all is lost, though, the struggling plants are developing huge, delicious cucumbers! I thought I only planted pickling varieties, as in the cucumbers stay small. But these cucumbers are huge – they’re like the size of those souvenir baseball bats you get at the game. Some of them are growing around the wooden trellis, too, which will make harvesting interesting.
The zucchinis have taken off, as have the lentils. Having never grown lentils before, I had no idea what the actual legume would look like. They are really neat. They grow in a pinkish colored pod that resembles an envelope. God only knows how you harvest them, though. I figure I’ve got a while to find out.
Perhaps the most exciting garden news is that I have a blossom on my pomegranate tree! The flower is a gorgeous salmony pink color. My big concern is that the tree itself is only like three inches tall. It’s more of a pomegranate twig, really. We’ll see how that works out. Perhaps it will be the world’s smallest pomegranate. The peanut plants are doing well inside the greenhouse; I need to repot them so the roots and the peanuts (which grow underground, how cool is that????) have room to spread out. I planted a few outside in the old potato boxes as well, but something dug them up and ate them. Stupid wildlife.The peanuts I planted in rows in the garden itself have sprouted as well. I have found one other thing I’m not so good at, in addition to labeling plants. I can’t put in a straight row to save my life. I’m more of a zig-zag person apparently. And I planted a row of bok choy like right on top of the peanuts. Oops. Here’s hoping they grow at different rates.
Three of the chickens figured out how to get into the fenced off main garden. They actually dug a little tunnel underneath a loose part of the fence. Thankfully I noticed them before they could do too much damage, although J-Lo managed to excavate underneath my fire pepper plant. (I call it a fire pepper because to me the peppers taste like burning. But Gene likes them in salsa). The flowers are all starting to bloom as well. I was surprised to see beautiful purple flowers growing in amongst my pea plants, because I totally thought I had planted marigolds there. The bees love them, and they must be tasty to chickens because they are always trying to reach them.
The chickens are settling well into their routines. We’re averaging about three eggs a day. I can always tell when I need to go check the coop, because they squawk really loudly right after they lay them. One of the white chickens, Mary Kate, comes out of the coop and shrieks for like five minutes. Personally I think she’s bragging about it, but Gene said I would squawk too if I laid an egg because it can’t be much fun for the chicken. Fun or not, they taste great! Double yolks are really common, and the other day I even got a triple yolked egg! Which actually kind of creeped me out a bit, because it was like eating potential triplets. Delicious delicious triplets.
I get up every day at five in the morning to let them out of the coop, even on weekends. You’d think they would appreciate me more, and stay out of the garden. Letting them out is one of my favorite things to do. If I get out there too early, they are still sitting on their roosting bars. (On a side note – even though they sleep on staggered bars, so some of their heads are underneath the butts of other chickens, nobody ever gets a poo shampoo. One of life’s mysteries, that.) As soon as I open the door in the morning, they start to squawk. Then, one by one, they launch themselves off the bars like little feathered missiles. You would think any kind of bird would be capable of showing some gracefulness in flight, but you would be wrong. They have no aim, and often bounce off the walls, off the heat lamp, and one on occasion, off me. If I wake up a little bit late, I’ll open the door to find them lined up in two rows, basically marching in place and waiting to get outside. They file outside two by two, like a feathered army. It’s the cutest thing ever. Then they congregate on the rocks in front of the shed until I give them a treat.
The goats are also accustomed to this routine – they bang their hooves up against the wall of their portion of the shed until I give them a treat. I’m sure the neighbors love the racket at the crack of dawn, what with the stomping hooves and the squawking. It’s a good thing treats shut everyone up. I would totally have 80 pound toddlers if I had kids.
The turkeys are doing what they do best – getting bigger. Not to keep harping on the poo theme, but I swear I have to clean up their chalet more often than Great Dane owners have to clean the kennels. They don’t eat THAT much. I don’t know where it all comes from, but it’s certainly impressive in terms of sheer bulk. The Bedonkaducks are getting big as well, and are starting to grow in proper feathers. I think we’ll be able to put them in their new house next week. Which means Gene better start working on that pond he promised me. We have the little wading pool that the goats and turkeys drink from, but I don’t think that’s big enough for proper duck swimming. And on another side note, the turkeys are fond of dropping bombs in the pool, which is the ultimate party fowl in my opinion. (Get it? Foul? Fowl? Sigh… Bess Bess didn’t get it last time either…)
We (ok, fine, Gene) have put in a lot of upgrades to the zoo lately as well. Notice I use the term “zoo” now, rather than “farm”. Because you don’t eat the animals at the zoo. Anyways, Gene built a cool sliding door in the side of the shed that lets me lock the goats out when it’s time to muck out their bedroom. Before, they would come through the opening, then go into the chicken’s part of the shed and eat all the grain. Now they are locked outside in their pasture area, which angers them mightily. (And earns them a treat, because I don’t want my kids to be mad at me).
Gene also built the goats and the turkeys a sun porch, and put it underneath a tree in the pasture area for them. It’s the base of the old chicken coop that we started to build and then decided not to use. Mostly because I wanted a bigger one, which I don’t think was unreasonable at all. Everyone loves it, and amazingly they share. Although Fiona will occasionally butt Buttercup or the smaller turkey off of it without warning.
And in case you were starting to think that we neglect the inside critters, we dropped a big chunk of change on an elevated feeding station for the puppies. Given Ceri’s recent sickness, Gene thought it would be better for her stomach if the food was up higher when she ate. I thought it was a great idea, and also thought maybe it would keep the cats out of the dog’s food. Ya, not so much. Jazzy cat climbs up into it, plunks her (substantial) rear end in the water bowl, and chows down.
Ceri is at that cute stage where she chews on everything. I hope no one expects nice throw pillows when they come to visit us, because all of them are partially consumed. As are the couches. And a bunch of my shoes (she never destroys both shoes from a pair, though). The other day, she somehow levitated to the top of the fish tank, then somehow unscrewed the top of the food canister, then knocked the canister to the floor. Both Ceri and Chupi had brine shrimp breath all week. Nasty. Just yesterday, Ceri knocked over the olive oil jar (which is stored on the back of the counter, mind you.) Both puppies must have gotten underneath it as the oil dripped onto the floor, because they have oil covered heads now. At least they smell good. Like shrimp poached in olive oil.
I’m looking forward to a busy July; I’m hoping to plant one more round of seeds so that I can get a second crop started before the cold weather sets in. I demand a proper-length summer, so by my reckoning winter should start in February this year.