This morning there was an avian invasion at Chez Fork, a family of White-winged Choughs dropped by. As with previous visits by these family birds our chickens retreated into the corner and looked on as the chough family did a thorough search of the yard for food.
It happens every year, after a summer of tending plants through stinking hot days, you wake up one day and the overnight temperature has dropped and those tomato bushes are past their best. Well that’s where it starts.
About a week ago we did decide to pull out the spent tomato vines and in the time-honoured way it has led to job after job in the garden. Once the tomatoes had gone the rest of the bed needed to be cleared of weeds. Then it was clear that the whole bed needed re-aligning to rectify some long-forgotten design decision we made years ago.
Thankfully our garden beds are not permanent, so up came the concrete block edge. Three days in and all the strawberry and sorrel plants that lived in those concrete blocks were transferred temporarily into tubs so the blocks could be re-laid. In the interim one of the chooks offered ‘assistance’ by eating the one sorrel plant remaining in the main part of the garden down to it’s roots.
Then it was off to the tip to buy a trailer load of compost. I’ll skip over the hard work of shoveling soil etc, because I was lucky enough to avoid that task. I injured my shoulder some days earlier, (the other half did an excellent job of the task).
At last we reached the fun bit, planting out. This bed now has lettuce, spinach and kale planted in it. Today the strawberries have gone back in. The sorrel, having proved such a hit with the chickens, has now gone back into the main part of the bed. Around the edge I have transplanted an allium, possibly a variety of garlic chive, whose white flowers look quite decorative. Of course the finishing touch is miles of plastic mesh and spiky sticks and tubes, which we hope may forestall chicken attack. Although we doubt it will work. 😊
PS defences were broken through, but we are retaliating with bigger and better defences.
Honestly, you’d think someone had been killed in here. One of our younger chickens has started moulting for the first time. Huge patches of skin can be seen! Yikes.
Today I see that one of the other ‘girls’, the little Arucana, has also started loosing her feathers. The very hot weather is effecting them as much as it effects us. The chickens spent most of the day in the shade next to my stone water trough, drinking as much water as they can.
Another interesting effect resulting from the moult is that the pecking order changes. The black hen who is now moulting was the number 2 chicken. This evening I see her being pushed out of the way by one of the chickens we are minding for our friend. This smaller chicken is normally two places below in the order. Once again I find that chickens are endlessly fascinating to watch.
Since arriving back from our overseas trip to our mini suburban savannah, TB has mown the grass down, at least to the point where we can find the garden beds. I have also unpacked the garden hardware we bought back from Japan. (No plants or seeds because we are not into causing bio-security problems and our wooden handled tools were declared at Border Security, no problems there).
As you can see from the close-up below, both the mini hoe and the triangular tool that looks a bit like a ho mi, have sharpened edges to help remove reluctant weeds. The mini hand saws have a sharp serrated edge which will be useful for cutting back all manner of vegetation.
I have also picked a slew of broadbeans, small and very tasty.
We are also getting a steady supply of eggs from our chickens.
Now it’s just a matter of clearing some spaces ready for our summer veggies.
It’s been an interesting week at Chez Fork. The older chooks have finally started laying again after nearly 6 months rest and our little black hen, having laid eggs for a month has now decided to go broody and get some ‘me’ time in the nesting box.
Earlier in week the chickens got quite a shock when a family of six White-winged Choughs decided to drop in for a breakfast visit. I know from a health perspective that having wild birds in the chook pen isn’t ideal, but when we let the girls into their larger run there isn’t much we can do to keep other birds out. In this case the choughs weren’t accessing the feeder, but were cleaning up some partially wet pellets I’d cleared out of the feeder earlier in the day.
We have seen the chickens drive wild birds out of their pen so we found it a bit odd that they seemed quite intimidated by the choughs. I mean there are four chickens and even our smallest chicken is twice as big as a chough.
On the cooking front I’ve been testing out some new recipes developed by the Queensland Country Women’s Association to promote a healthier approach to the afternoon tea table. The recipes they have been promoting include Bean Brownies and Orange Pistachio and Chickpea Cake. As you may gather from the title, the recipes incorporate alternative ingredients, as well as lower quantities of sugar. These two recipes are also gluten-free. I tried the bean brownies first. Although the flavour was good I found the actual brownie quite fragile in the way that most gluten-free baked goods are. As we do not have problems with gluten I plan to re-make this recipe using plain flour.
From the outset the Orange Pistachio and chickpea cake was much more successful. For a start I didn’t waste any time going gluten-free, I just substituted an equal quantity of plain flour for gluten free flour. I also used tangerines rather than oranges, as I had some that my friend had given me.
This cake has proved popular with all who have tried it. It has a moist crumb which is flavoured with the pistachio nuts and citrus. To finish it off I made a drizzle topping using some more of the tangerines. This one is staying in the repetoire.
Finally tonight we had a hearty vegetable soup including lots of greens from our garden.
Add in some smoked ham hock, courtesy of my partner’s annual pig processing and for additional flavour some of the dried mushrooms we foraged for earlier in autumn.
Finally we had an extremely tasty bowl of hot soup.
Yep sprinter is definitely here! I’m a firm believer in Tim Entwisle’s re-definition of Australian seasons. We are not quite finished with winter but the garden is well into spring, never mind the calendar.
I may not have heard the Bronze Cuckoos yet, but the Spotted Pardalote’s are actively inspecting our compost heap and drilling test nest burrows and the magpie’s are mating on our neighbour’s lawn (don’t look Gladys!).
Elsewhere in the garden I am seeing the first flowering of the hellebore plant’s that our friend J and neighbour V, gave to me two year’s ago. Unfortunately my plan for a woodland vignette has descended into a replica of a miltary redoubt, surrounded by wire and posts to keep the marauding chickens out.
Never believe anyone who tells you that chickens and your garden can cohabit happily. For along with all those tasty insects, they will devour your favourite plants. Our chickens appear to have inherited the palates of dissipated Roman emperors. Nothing is beyond their capability to eat, should they desire it. So far they have demolished both the leaves of my waterlily and the known toxic Small Leafed Nardoo, (Marselia angustifolia), toxic to humans that is, but obviously not to chickens. I placed both of these plants in my stone water trough, thinking that they might help oxygenate the water, but once the chickens found them they were decimated in days.
Meanwhile in the front garden my Blue Veronica (Veronica perfoliata) has put on several flower shoots and the yellow-flowered Bulbine Lily (Bulbinopsis bulbine) is thrusting out of the ground bearing fattening buds.
The flowers of the only Australian ground orchid in my garden, the Blunt Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis curta), have pushed up above the rosettes of leaves filling their terracotta pot. I have also sunk a pot of these orchids into the front garden. I will soon plant them out properly as I see that they have managed to survive the winter frosts (so far).
We have taken advantage of this wonderfully sunny day to plant out lots of Native Bluebell’s (Wahlenbergia sp.) that my partner has a real knack for propagating. I’ve also committed three Eremophila and a Correa, grown from cuttings to the ‘mercies’ of the real garden, death by being ignored in a pot being the alternative.
Alas the weeds have also registered the upswing in the season. At least I can feed them to those marauding imperial chickens!