Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Roosters pretending to be hens

Here goes. I know this sounds weird. And maybe you'll think I'm silly or stupid or both. But there are three "hens" in my flock of 16 birds who are actually roosters. At least, they definitely WERE male. They are now camouflaged as hens. I want to dispatch them, as I'm not keen on feeding three birds that are not laying eggs and there are enough of them in the chook shed... but the problem is, I can't tell them apart from the hens, so I might not be dispatching the right birds!

That's the short story. The longer version is this. Of the last little batch of four Barnevelder chicks hatched back in March, unfortunately three turned out to be male. They were clearly boys - stood taller, had thicker yellower legs, their combs developed quicker. When they outgrew their little chook tractor, I didn't want to move the girl in with the older birds on her own, as she was smaller and I thought she would get picked on. Chooks are nasty that way. So I decided to move all four young birds in with the flock, where they pretty much kept to themselves and seemed to get on fine.

A couple of weeks later, I passed the chook shed on my early morning walk and heard one of the young cockerels trying out his (kind of pathetic) crow. I remember thinking, "I'll have to catch and dispatch those boys soon before they cause trouble." Then I was away for work, and we had some atrocious weather... no time to spend my weekend butchering birds for the freezer. But in the few weeks I delayed, the three young lads stopped looking like lads and I couldn't tell them apart from the Barnevelder hens! Every now and then I think, that one's comb looks particularly red, or that one has a tinge of green in its feathers. Then I look around and see a bunch of other chooks that look just the same. And at night, high up on their perch, there is just no way I can tell them apart with enough confidence to kill them. We have one mature rooster, Vladimir Putin, and my only guess is that to avoid his wrath they are somehow pretending to be hens. Seriously, they do not have thicker yellow legs, spurs, large combs or colourful rooster plumage at all.

A Google search revealed quite a few stories of hens who have turned into roosters, like Gertie who became Bertie. But not so much about spontaneous sex reversal the other way around, such as Gianni the cockerel who started to lay eggs. I'm starting to think I'm going crazy! Any chook experts out there ever seen this before?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

New season, new trees

Last week, a man with a digger came and leveled out some bumps in the yard that made mowing difficult, and removed some large rocks that were jutting out enough to damage the ride-on mower. We decided to fill some of the holes left behind where the rocks were removed with some new trees, so a Saturday morning trip to Greenhill Nursery was in order. They have a huge selection of plants and very helpful staff. Even better, the trees are grown in a climate similar to ours, so we know they will cope with the local weather. We bought a couple of elderberry trees (I want to use the flowers in some recipes I have), a lipstick maple, a crab apple, an ornamental pear and a little blue spruce. Fingers crossed they all do well and didn't mind the snow covering less than two days after they were planted. I was unable to take a photo of the newly graded bank in the garden without being dog bombed, as you'll see. Thanks, Gretchen.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Finally, snow

Winter has left her run late this year. Despite several forecasts of snow down to 700, 600, 500 metres, until last night we'd seen no more than a few flakes mixed in with rain. So with only a few days of winter left, we finally had a nice covering of snow to wake up to. And one of my photos featured in this ABC Hobart news report on the snowfalls. Nice!

Sunday, August 26, 2018

The power of mulch

Last week, David asked some blokes who were trimming branches away from power lines on our road if they could dump a load of their mulch at our place. They delivered.

Past deliveries have been put to very good use in the chook yard, around the raised veggie beds, around trees, stabilising clay banks. So now we have a huge pile of beautiful smelling mulched wood and leaves next to the driveway. The chooks were onto it immediately, kicking it around with their powerful little legs.

Some years ago I went to an open garden scheme day at a beautiful garden in the hills of Glen Huon, very close to our place as the crow flies, but about 20 minutes by car. I couldn't believe how beautiful their soil was, rich and dark brown, sustaining both native trees and a huge range of non-natives. And yet they were so close to us, and their altitude was not that much lower than ours. Our soil is mostly clay, soggy and wet in winter and hard and dry in summer. When I asked one of the owners about their soil, he said "mulch." Over the years they had added tonnes and tonnes of organic material to build up their topsoil and boy had it paid off. While I don't have any intention of developing such an incredible garden, I now believe in the power of mulch.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Where's the snow?

The forecast for winter in Tasmania this year was "a little warmer and a little wetter". We've hit August with no snow so far, other than a few flakes mixed in with rain one afternoon. None that has settled on the ground anyway, unlike last year. The ground at our place is pretty soggy and it's a bit muddy around the chook shed, where the girls have scratched up all the grass and leaves. I won't say it's been warm, but we've certainly enjoyed the winter sun and plenty of rainbows. Dear old Baerli can't walk far now, but we've still enjoyed a few cafe lunches outdoors with the girls. I am certain the snow is yet to come...

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Egg supply

A month ago we were getting on average one egg per day. Now production has ramped up and so far this month the hens have laid 110 eggs. We've eaten plenty, given some away and next I'll have to go looking for customers, now that we have our little stamp of accreditation. Thank you, ladies!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Fresh walnuts

What to do when you are given a lovely big bag of walnuts and don't have a nutcracker? Hmm... I did what many of us would these days and googled the problem. Up pop plenty of videos demonstrating complicated methods of cracking walnut shells. I fetch a regular dinner knife as recommended in one of the videos, but the first walnut I pick up splits in two in my hand! All but three open easily that way, the others I prise open with the knife. After that I am left with about 250 grams of freshly shelled walnuts, which I lightly crush in the mortar and pestle. A Matthew Evans recipe for honey and walnut biscuits that I saved from an old SBS Feast magazine years ago uses 150 grams. The rest I add to a maple syrup granola mix and bake in the oven. I'm sure I'm not just imagining that they taste better than the store bought walnuts from a packet.