So, apparently when they're about 18 months old, laying hens have their first molt. According to what I've read, they basically stop laying during the molt, to put energy into feathers, and then ramp back up the spring after their molt. (As counter-intuitive as it seems, most molts apparently take place in know, when it's starting to get colder...?)

Either way, they look awfully pathetic... We only have one molting, which seems odd to me, since we have 4 of that age. I guess we'll just have to see if the rest follow suit.
Our pet birds love their mixed veggies, so we decided as part of our frugality efforts to make our own. So we have frozen corn left from last year, and frozen green beans. Peas, we decided, are too expensive if we have to buy them to freeze them, so next on the list was carrots. Despite our successes this year, there's no way there were enough from our garden to we hiked off to the store and bought a 5 pound bag on sale.

On to chopping....

(Thank you S. you make a lovely hand model... :-) 

Here they are, all chopped. (yes, this is how we should have tried to chop the cucumbers for dill relish...)

Chopping the carrots was, by far, the most time-consuming part of the process
(but we wanted our cute little dices)

(Is "dices" a word?)

Next, we blanched the carrots for 3-5 min

Note the crazy scary orange foaming water....

We froze them flat on a cookie sheet, as we did the green beans. That works really well for not ending up with one block of iced veggies. Isn't that color crazy?

...and here it is all bagged up (it barely fit...I probably should have used two bags....)

State of the garden

As of the first weekend in September...

We still had tomatoes setting... 

Pepper plants still in flower.

Eastern Box Turtle

I'm not sure what he's looking at...

He let me get really close to him, though!

Acorn Squash

This year we planted two hills of Acorn of Table Ace and one Queen (I know, I know.... I have it written down somewhere). They are doing TONS better than we anticipated. We have at least 3 or 4 lovely green squash set (it's kind of hard to locate the count gets sketchy...), and the plants are still setting. Yes, they're getting a spot of downy mildew here and there, but it doesn't seem to be slowing them down!

Does anyone know how to tell when they're ripe?


A few weeks ago (yes, all of my posts this past week started out this way...) we brought in a surprising number of carrots from the garden (ok, S. did). I think they probably took a bit longer to mature than the seed packets said...but better late than never.

We had quite the assortment of sizes and colors...

Quite a few (maybe a third of them) had pest issues...I'm not quite sure what they are. Maybe root borers of some sort, I suppose? Either way, despite the pests, lots of them were just fine and sweeter than any carrot I've ever had. We'll definitely try the Danvers Half-longs again next year, as they seemed to do pretty well.

This is typical of the pest damage that we found.


Several weeks ago, found us with pullets up to almost full-size laying, and waaay too many eggs in the fridge. I decided to try my hand at an egg-heavy baking venture. After looking at a few different recipes (and deciding that we probably would never eat that much pound cake if I froze a bunch...) I settled on Challah bread. It's yummy, and uses quite a few eggs....unfortunately, it also looks a bit...ahem..intensive...and no, I have no family recipe to go on. Instead, I borrowed someone else's. An expert, Smitten Kitchen. :-)

Her recipe pretty much says it all, and really did make for a pretty easy experience.  I don't have any pics of the dough, but S. was kind enough to get my attempts at following Smitten Kitchen's braiding directions burned into monitors everywhere. :-) I gave up on the directions (sorry!) and just stuck to what I know, which is a fairly straightforward multi-strand braid....take the right-most and alternate over-under-over, then take the new right-most and repeat. Not authentic, I'm sure....but it looks much more presentable than my earlier attempts.

After braiding, I brushed both loaves with lots and lots of egg yolk....

Then into the oven. The loaves did take a bit longer to bake then the instructions said...but I used the internal temperature guidelines...and that worked out great! We ate one loaf right away, and froze the other one for later. This was very yummy---it took a while, with all the risings, but I'll definitely make it again...

bSo, back when I was reading about tomato hornworms at the beginning of July, I discovered that they usually (in our area, at least) have 2 hatchings. Awesome. Fast forward to a week or two ago, when we went down to the veggie garden...I had all but forgotten this news...until.....

See those black balls? They're slightly smaller than peppercorns. Tomato Hornworm frass, or droppings. (Not familiar with the term "frass"? We learned about it when reading up on Squash Vine Borers years ago) Uh-oh.

So I started searching for the little devils...I knew they had to be there. I knew they were hard to spot. Thing was, there wasn't really a lot of damage to the tomato plants. I was just thinking how strange that was when  I spotted the first one:

But hang on now. It had weird little white cylindrical thingies all over it...what the heck? And it wasn't moving...or...eating...could it be..?

Could it be one of these neat little parasitic wasps? Yep.. Sure enough. Those look like Cotesia congregata cocoons....parasitic braconid wasps.

Apparently, they lay their eggs in the larvae of hornworms, and cause viruses, which knock out its immune system...the hatched wasps live inside the hornworm until they emerge to form a cocoon (which is what those white things are)... The wasp larva disrupt the host's (hornworm's) endocrine system...and eventually, after the hornworms stop eating...

They die. Ah, the circle of life....and narry a scratch on our tomato plant this time around. Thanks, Mother Nature. Glad to have those little Cotesia congregatas around!

Dill Relish

A couple of weeks ago, we finally (I think) pulled in the last of our cucumbers...there weren't quite enough for pickles again....(phew). We decided instead to try a half-batch of relish. Why? 'Cause I thought it would be neat---we'd never made relish before. The pickles were on the old and large side too, so we were a bit concerned about pickle texture....Relish seemed perfect!

We actually only had about 4 pounds of pickles this a half-batch worked out for us. We didn't dice the pickles by hand (instead preferring to be clever and automated, we used the food processor). The food processor yielded a bit Grated? A result then we would have gotten if we'd diced by hand (or tried the mandoline....ahem...yeah, forgot about that).  Ah well, learning experience, right?

So, following the directions, you had to soak and brine (with turmeric) for a bit, and then bring the whole mess to a boil...

It was a little bit difficult to keep our shredded cucumber under the brine during this step...

...and here we're boiling it...
We used jelly jars for ours, rather than pints. It was really a pretty easy process, and if it turns out tasty, I think I'd do it again. (With perhaps more of a dice...)  :-)

Grilled Squash

So I know you know that we've been doing nothing but harvesting cucumbers and summer squash for the past few months... And I shared that we made some delicious stuffed squash, and TONS of sauteed squash....but did I mention grilled squash? It's super-easy. Just marinate slices of summer squash in some olive oil and light seasoning, grill until tender, then store them in the refrigerator for dinner later in the week. :-)

Green Bean Time

Once again, this year, our green beans did not do well (and our soybeans are gangbusters, but the beans aren't developing within the pods :-( which is another story, I suppose). So, we hiked off to our grocery store and bought a bunch in bulk to freeze for the winter, since it worked so well last time!

First we washed and snapped 'em.

These are the snapped off ends, which we gave to the chickens and ducks...

Then, we blanched them and froze them.

Easy! And we have two stuffed-to-brimful freezer bags of green beans. (This time we froze them on a cookie sheet before transferring them to the bags...each bean stayed separate...not in a block of ice, like last time.)
Today I found a surprise when I went out to get the chicken eggs. I took a quick peek in the duck house to make sure that nobody laid in it...and....

This is a Cayuga egg (they range from grey to light grey blue, according to our catalog --- the Runner duck eggs will be white when they start laying). We weren't expecting any of the ducks to start laying until spring so this is quite a surprise! It was fairly small, smaller than the chicken eggs, so probably was the first. (I'm sure they'll get larger with time).

Lazy August

So, despite my lack of posts in August, we actually were pretty busy. We froze some green beans, made relish, baked Challah bread to use up some eggs,grilled tons more of those scalloped summer squash, and brought in our biggest crop of carrots yet (we've never really been great at growing carrots). So why no word of these things? Ummmm...they're coming. I promise!

In the meantime, how about some more pictures of our lovely laying hens dust bathing? :-)
....and of course, Roscoe the rooster.

And here they are again (more in focus). I think that's Daria in front. It could be Darcy (hard to tell the least with the Runners, Daisy has more freckle-spots and pinker feet than Delilah; With the Cayugas, Daria is a teensy little bit bigger then Darcy...or at least was 2 months ago). Either way, there's one of Cayuga who always looks darned intelligent when I bring out the camera...or even do anything really. That's this one. :-)


Our flower garden is rather sad looking.... but here's a little bit of cheer.

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