Last winter, I didn’t start planting seeds in my greenhouse until February. Waiting until well into the new year left a solid three months worth of time spent staring out the window at the pouring rain, sighing heavily, and complaining about the weather non-stop. All while wrapped in a cozy blanket, curled up next to a warm fire in our wood stove with an abundance of furry purring felines available for petting. But still, it was rough. Mostly for anybody within earshot of my incessant whining about the rainy cold darkness, which, by the way, starts to dampen my spirit at 4:30 pm thanks to day light savings time. But I digress. This year, it’s going to be different. I’m not waiting for February, I’m starting now. It’s going to be the Year of the Tropics around here. Since I’ve never been one to put all my eggs in one basket, I planted various seeds both in the greenhouse and in little pots on the windowsills inside the house. I’m sprouting dragon fruit, several types of aloe, papaya, guava, and kiwis. That’s in addition to several types of ancient medicinal plants, and even several types of tobacco for Gene. (I figure that dovetails nicely with my luffa sponge project – if the apocalypse comes, we’ll be both clean and free of nicotine withdrawals! Now if I can figure out how to distill vodka from the potatoes I grew, then bring on the four horsemen I say, for I am prepared.)
I’ll be the first to admit I need a lot of distractions from the weather to remain happy during the rainy months. Don’t get me wrong, the farm keeps me busy during the day, but once the sun sets and all the critters have gone to bed (before 5 pm!!!), I’m faced with a lot of free time. Thanks to the good folks at Fungi Perfecti in Olympia, I found a way to fill the void – with mushrooms! I ordered a shitake mushroom kit so that I could grow my own at home, instead of paying $14.99 a pound at the store. The mushroom kit arrived today, along with a small novel containing all the care instructions. Judging by our backyard, I was under the impression that fungi grew profusely on its own with no human intervention whatsoever, but leave it to me to find the one species of fungus that demands to be spoiled with attention. Like three times a day. Apparently shitake mushrooms adhere to a schedule – four days in the refrigerator, then three to four mistings a day for a few weeks. And then, if it suits them, you’ll be rewarded with tasty mushrooms.
Between the mushrooms and the quail, my complaining about the weather time has been drastically reduced. I was able to find day-old quail chicks in Belfair, so naturally I jumped on that one. After bringing them home, I did some research and learned that quail chicks are 100 times more high maintenance than chickens. First off, they eat and drink a ton, way more than you’d think could be packed into those tiny fluffy bodies. And they can’t have a standard waterer, since they have a habit of falling asleep with their heads down and their butts sticking up. If they do that in deep water, you can imagine how that would end. So I have to fill up a shallow lid with water approximately 15 times a day. They can’t eat standard chick starter, since the crumbles are too big. Every night, I patiently grind up a scoop of starter kibble with a mortar and pestle. Three little chicks can hoover down a scoop a day, which is impressive, even by my standards. They’re not born knowing how to eat, either. Unless you have an usually smart chick in the batch, you actually have to show them how by using your fingers like a pretend giant quail beak. My days are now filled with misting fungus, fake-eating, and changing water lids. And I couldn’t be happier.
The one thing I’m not doing this winter is bottle feeding baby bunnies, thank god. Cinnabun is an excellent mama, and her kits are finally big enough that she allows me to pet them, and more importantly, take their picture! I was cleaning out around their nesting box a few days ago, after distracting mama with a giant pile of Wheat Thins, and I glanced inside to find five baby bunnies. I was relieved – five is a number we can manage. I was sure there’s five people within a 20-mile radius of us that haven’t bought a baby bunny yet. So I slid the box over to clean behind it, and six more bunnies tumbled out from behind it. So yeah. Eleven is a good number too. Who wants a bunny for Christmas????
They really are cute, though. I spend a lot of time in the Bunny Ranch, petting them and giving them treats. Now that Cinnabun has decided it’s okay for them to interact with me, they tumble out of their nesting box and weave themselves in and out of my fingers. It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world. Some of the babies have unusual coloring this time around – a charcoal gray with darker stripes. Most of them are the same size, with two huge monster babies. No runt this time, which is unusual. Not that any of them would stay runts for long, what with the steady stream of Wheat Thins and fresh produce that comes their way on a daily basis.