It looks as if 2013 may be a bad year for the hen. It's the Year of The Snake, afterall, and I think we all know that snakes and hens are not compatible on any level. Either the snake eats the young and/or the eggs or the hens eat the snake. Any way you slice it, by the time you get to the end only one of them walks out of the pen alive.
Le Bête has been battling her own metaphorical snake, in the form of a mystery illness, all week. Did I mention her amazing egg cannon trick? Last week I picked her up because I am convinced that I can domesticate her or at the very least diminish her fear if I show her that I am not a threat to her life. She squirmed and scratched but the most remarkable thing that she did was shoot an egg out of the ol' egg chute. Imagine taking a lemon and throwing it to the ground with force. The thud and the dust that flew up was like a dinner bell to the hens who came running and pounced upon the egg without mercy. The whole thing was like a bad dream.
The next day I noticed that Le Bête not really herself, I mean, who would be right? I couldn't blame her if she was traumatized, I was still texting friends and shocking co-workers with the story. But I did consider that maybe she had a piece of shell stuck inside or was egg bound. She passed blood with her stool and was very subdued. I caught her again, this time to check and see for myself if there was any evidence of injury to her. There was nothing unusual that I could see.
Guinea lost her gumption
She has been quiet for the last several days and perching lower than is safe at night. I'm worried that she is vulnerable to who knows what, a racoon? The Delawares? They behave like a gang of street bullies, pecking and menacing each other and Le Bête.
She still eats a little but seldom jumps over the railing anymore. She has no fight in her, no gumption. I don't know that there is any action to be taken. It's a wait and see situation. For all I know, this could be age related. Maybe she is winding down and coming to her natural end. I don't know how old she was when she found us but I always feel lucky that she did.
I'd like to see her rebound and roam and sit up in her tree. I'd like to see her crazy pills kick in again so she could wreck the silence with her wild guinea call. I never thought I'd say this but I miss that horrible noise of hers.
I have the best intentions, really I do. I took the May writing challenge at 750 Words and was cruising right along until Saturday when the thought of writing never crossed my mind once. Not once. Then a few minutes after midnight I remembered but, too late, I was already on The Wall of Shame. Yikes! As a follow up to my somber disappointment I did not bother to visit 750Words on Sunday or Monday, either.
I really like the website. The writing platform is clean and straightforward and for someone like me, who likes to quantify everything, it's nice to have a word count, the time it took to peck out those words and see some other data as well. It is based on Julia Cameron's advice that writers can benefit from morning pages, writing 3 pages of whatever is bouncing around in the ol' echo chamber first thing in the morning.
I found that it gave me a space to write about work and to purge bothersome little annoyances that aren't worth expressing out loud without coming across as petty and hateful. It was also a good place for me to write about dreams and goals without coming across as unrealistic. I'll go back to it eventually, probably as soon as tomorrow. I couldn't do it today because I wanted to share the garden news with you!
Last summer, in late September, possibly even very early October, we planted our first garlic. We chose a variety called Inchelium Red. It is a softneck variety and stores for 6 to 9 months. Michael planted the individual cloves 6" apart along the length of the large bed. That must be about 10'. They sprouted right away and have looked healthy and hearty for months now. I pulled one up just to see how far along the bulbs were back in January, then again less than a month ago. There was no bulb development and I was starting to think that I'd never see a garlic head. I looked at You Tube videos, read blogs and books to try to determine when I should harvest.
All the information said that the garlic is ready to harvest when the green leaves start to turn brown. Our garlic leaves seemed to look healthy still. There was some drying brown husks at the bottom but overall they looked pretty good. Or so I thought.
Ready or not, here I come
Who's a pretty little bulb now?
Yesterday I pulled the most withered garlic stalk that I could find and BEHOLD! There was a big, fat bulb at the other end. I thought it might be a fluke so I pulled its neighbor out and again, a swollen, albeit a very dirty white bulb came up and out of the soil. I raced back into the house to show Michael, trying to hide the garlic stalks behind me until it was time for the big reveal but when I saw him I immediately thrust them out, "LOOK!"
I had him take a picture of me on the front porch beaming like a dope with my newly dug garlic. Afterward, I tried to rein in my excitement and help Michael with the dead tree removal (he cut down the dead hackberry on Saturday) but I was far too distracted by all of the garlic. I pulled the row up, one after the other a bulb dangled at the end. I can hardly express the satisfaction. I laid them out on the picnic table and eventually found a good place for them to cure.
The first stage of garlic curing is to set them out for a week or so intact. The second step is trimming the roots and the long stalks unless you intend to braid them. I'll try a few braids but probably not the entire bunch. They are pretty much perfect except for one that was left in too long and grew through the papery wrapper and one that wasn't developed all the way.
Too far gone
I already cleaned and used one clove from one head for eggs this morning. It was peppery hot and looked like a pearl on the cutting board. We are definitely planting garlic again in September. Probably twice as much unless I come to my senses before then.
It's sad, I know. He may have been picked off by a blue jay. Or a mockingbird. Or a grackle, for that matter. He just wasn't there after awhile. He had lots of relatives living just a frond or two away. They all disappeared one day. I looked for cocoons but could never find even a one. I always thought that maybe they went down to the base of the fennel, nearer to the soil.I hope they didn't drown.
Last weekend, when we actually got measurable rainfall, I noticed that the fennel was very saggy. I planted the fennel from seed and it took forever to reach it's towering height so I found the sag distressing since I had taken a great deal of pride in the robustness of this particular herb. When I went to inspect, I could see that the planter was waterlogged. The roots must have been gasping for air. I tipped the planter over (with some resistance and difficulty) to spill out the water thinking that would take care of the problem. I then put it back to its upright position.
The next day the sag was more noticeable. I checked again and again the soil looked to be waterlogged. I tipped the planter over, again with some difficulty, and inspected the bottom. I could see a root coming out the bottom. I went to move the planter but it was anchored into the ground and took a great deal of effort. It was heavy from the water and rooted into the soil. This is what I found:
I couldn't believe the mass of roots that I found. They had managed to squeeze their way through the 1" hole at the bottom of the planter. The roots had bottle necked at the hole and eventually blocked it completely. Not a drop of water could pass through. I tugged and pulled at the mass until it let go. The air filled with the smell of licorice. My hands, too. I clipped what I could to use later. I doubt that I will use it though, it's still in a cup of water in the refrigerator. It looks pretty in there. It looks like the outside living in a cold box inside.
If there was a caterpillar living in that mess it was completely displaced that day and I apologize. I'm sorry for the short notice, Stripey Thing. I hope that you found your way out of the doomed ark and not in the beak of a jay.