They came by mail, packed in a box no bigger than a shoe box. Seven downy Buff Orpington female chicks are now safely ensconced in a lobster crate in our bathroom with the door firmly shut to keep out Charlie, the cat. My initial plan, one that decidedly did NOT include having them spend any time in the house, was to sneak them under a broody hen in the middle of the night, removing the eggs she was nesting on and introducing the baby chicks. Anyone who has ever had cute, tiny baby chicks in their house who have then grown into unruly, ungainly, dust- and chicken-poop-flinging teenagers can feel my pain when I say I’m determined that the chicks will not be in the house for long.
The intsy flaw in this plan is that, for the first year ever, I don’t have a broody hen. I can’t tell you if it’s the cooler weather or the lack of a rooster (Fluffy the rooster died this winter) but none of these hens are feeling the mama urge.
I put my problem out to Twitter and a few people suggested either fake eggs or ping pong balls as an encouragement, thinking that someone is bound to think they are hers. Having one child who saves, hoards and parses her holiday candy, I had some pastel, plastic Easter eggs still in the house into which I added some flour for weight. I then taped them shut and put them in a nest. This is what they thought of that idea…
However, Plan b is now in place. I have a lobster crate, a heat light, chick starter and reams of newspaper. They will be protected from the other hens in the coop by the lobster crate while they stay warm under the heat lamp. Once they have feathers and are eating regular feed, I’ll turn them loose with the rest of the flock.
The interview with Andrea Ridout of Mother Earth News is available for streaming. Of course if you’ve already sailed with us, it won’t be news to you! But fun anyway. If you’ve not sailed with us, it’s a chance to hear about our sustainable view on food and have fun dreaming about sailing the Maine coast this summer. Maybe those who’ve sailed with us should have a listen too so their wait for the next time doesn’t seem so long! This is how Andrea and Dan, her co-host, started the interview:
Last year Andrea had the pleasure of taking a trip on the J. & E. Riggin, a historic 115-foot sailboat that launches out of Rockland, Maine. The boat specializes in cruises around breathtaking Penobscot Bay — and if that isn’t cool enough, it is also eco-friendly. The crew composts, uses mostly wind power, and cooks three meals a day for 30 people on a vintage, cast-iron woodstove.
Yesterday I uncovered the row hoops that I installed in the fall and was shocked to find all kinds of green! While I'd heard it work for others, the rows had gotten so mushed by snow that my hope of vibrant life under the two layers of plastic was thin.
I spent all day in the garden, cleaning out the hen house, weeding the asparagus bed, building compost piles, seeding under the cold frame, checking out the wintersown seeds and I even had time to start a bentwood arch for the entrance to the vegetable garden before the girlies came home from school.
Here's a slideshow of what we found in an April Maine garden. For some of you, spring may be in full swing, but you'll note in the background of these photos that not even the grass is yet green here in my Maine backyard.
There have been a few issues with having chickens other that the sorry state of the hen house. Not the least of which has been that at some point, the hormones kicked in for the 13 roosters and they started to become a little aggressive, flapping their wings and running toward the girls, but not pecking or using their claws, when the girls would go out to get the eggs or to visit with the hens.
I should interject here that the roosters had always been destined for the freezer. When they are little it’s a hard to stomach that you are diligently and lovingly raising these beings and then will summarily dismiss them at some point to eventually place them on your dinner table.
But as the roosters’ aggression increased, this ambivalent feeling wanned and was replaced by a sort of pushing back on my part – as in "Hey, buddy, let’s not forget who’s in charge here." They began to charge out of the hen house whenever I would walk into the coop area and this made me uncomfortable for my girls especially because the roosters, when they stretched out and flapped their wings could get almost eye to eye with my youngest daughter.
Then, one day, the feeling snapped straight into true aggression – as in, "It can be too soon for you buggers to leave." My girls were outside in the coop area playing with the hens and getting upset that the roosters were jumping on the backs of the hens. In other words, mating. When this first happened the hens were a mess. They ran away, they squawked and basically sounded as if they were under deadly attack. And I have to say, I don’t really blame them. Woman’s rights hasn’t really filtered down into the chicken world and the hens didn’t seem to think this was a mutual good time.
My girls were in the pen when this happened and one got pecked right next to the eye. Then I walked into the pen and the rooster charged directly at me. The mama bear in me was so strong that the only thing that kept me from swinging that rooster from it’s feet was the fact that my girlies were right there watching. From that point on, the girls weren’t allowed in the pen until after the roosters had joined the steaks in the freezer.
And I have to admit that even though I was past ready for them to leave, it took months before I could actually cook one.
Annie This year someone else is raising our meat birds
The first annual Green Fair held at Plants Unlimited in Rockport, Maine was a huge success. It was warm and sunny enough that every Mainer was out buying geraniums and basil even when they know we still have until the end of May before we can be certain there won’t be another frost to kill off our new tender beauties.
There were two displays there, other than all of the green plants (heaven for Mainers who’ve only just stopped thinking they’ll see white snow when looking out the window) that just fascinated me. The first were two owls, a Barred and a Barn Owl. They were so beautiful and still that they almost didn’t look real.
The second was a woman who makes all sorts of clothing out of Salvation Army rejects. Sweater sleeves became pant legs for kids pants, jeans with holes in the knees were cut off at the hip and turned into skirts with fabric taken from a dress and a myriad of fabrics became bags of all sorts and sizes.
My talk was on how to use fresh herbs in cooking. Chloe and I made fresh pasta, savory pie crusts and pestos. Some of the recipes are in this week’s column in the Portland Press Herald.
This pesto is one that my daughter, Chloe, especially liked. Serve it with pasta, spread on focaccia or over a toasted baguette.
Dill, Lemon and Goat Cheese Pesto
1/2 cup lightly packed parsley leaves 1/2 cup lightly packed dill leaves 1/4 cup pinenuts 2 tablespoons goat cheese 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest 1 tablespoon lemon juice 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 1 small clove garlic several grinds of fresh black pepper pinch of salt
Combine all ingredients in a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle.