Search This Blog

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Virginia's Wild Berry Season Begins (Blog 144)

For the past few days, I have been wandering our 38 acres in Botetourt County in search of the first wild berries of the season.  Elaine and I try to gather about 10 to 12 gallons of berries every year, and we are anxious to start our picking.

So far, only about three cups of raspberries have trickled in, but today I espied the first two ripe wineberries of the summer.  And I noted that the blackberries have started turning red from green.  Even a few dewberries have changed to red.

Picking wild berries is part of our quest to be as self-sufficient as possible.  Coupled with the deer and turkeys that I kill, what we grow in our garden, and the eggs our chickens produce, we do all right in this regard.

Right now, it is impossible to tell if we will be able to gather enough berries to supply all our jams, pies, and cobblers for the next year.  I also noted this morning that competition exists for our fruits. At one of my favorite wineberry patches, which lies adjacent to our food plot, a rather large creature had cut a huge swathe through the vines.  No doubt a black bear has found our patch.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Leader of the Flock...Boss or Johnny? (Blog 143)

Our heritage Rhode Island Reds are now 11 weeks old, and in not too many more weeks, our two cockerels, Boss and Johnny, will be crowing.  Elaine has made it abundantly clear that she does not care for Boss, who stands beak and head taller than Johnny and much more than that over the three hens.

Elaine calls Boss a "bully" for his constant badgering of Johnny and, frankly to a lesser extent, every other member of our flock of five.  I don't imagine that Boss will ever stop bullying Johnny, but I do believe he will become more solicitous of the hen trio, as they and he mature.

I am not sure at which age a cockerel will start sharing his food with the hens, as our late industrial R.I.R rooster Little Jerry was very attentive to the hens and as soon as he would come across any morsel would sound the food call.  But I can't remember at what age he began to do that.

The picture below shows Boss on the far left.  Johnny is completely out of the picture (the birds are in our chicken tractor) as he spends a great deal of his time avoiding Boss.  In any event, I want to keep both Boss and Johnny, but the time may come when Johnny is kept in a separate enclosure.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Elaine Names the New Chickens (Blog 142)

Well, Elaine has officially named the five heritage Rhode Island Red chicks that we ordered from California.  The two cockerels have been dubbed Boss (for obvious reasons) and Johnny (after the main male character in Dirty Dancing.  Boss is currently riding roughshod over Johnny and won't let the latter move about without giving him periodic angry stares and the random chest bump.

Two of the pullets have been named Sweetie Pie and Baby (as nobody puts Baby in the corner, again from Dirty Dancing). Sweetie Pie is the prettiest of the young females.  She has a white face, whereas everyone else features a brown one.  It will be interesting to see if her face remains that pale.

The fifth chicken Elaine has given the appellation Tootsie, from the Dustin Hoffman character in the movie.  Brice Yocum, whom we bought the chicks from, told us he was unsure of the sex of this bird (they were eight weeks old when shipped, now they are  10 weeks old).  Elaine's reasoning was that since Tootsie could be either male or female, Tootsie would be a nice safe name.

However, I am now about 80% sure that Tootsie is a female.  Boss has shown no interest in thrashing Tootsie, which is another clue that she might be a female.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Heritage Rhode Island Red Chicks Growing Restive (Blog 141)

We have now had our five heritage Rhode Island Red chicks (they were 8 1/2 weeks old when they arrived) for nine days and they are growing quite restless.  During the day, we keep them outside in our chicken tractor as much as is possible, but in the evening they come inside and spend the night in a fenced end enclosure in our basement.

Our three production Reds (Ruby, Little Spotty, and Tallulah) were not kind to the five birds when they arrived. Ruby, in fact, pulled a mass of feathers from the newcomer we have named Sweetie Pie.  We were fearful that Ruby would have killed the smaller members of the quintet if we had left the new flock in the chicken run.

Yet this morning it is obvious that the heritage flock cannot remain inside much longer.  When we came downstairs to check on them, four of the five were perched on their fence.  It seems it will be only a matter of time before they decide to "bust out" of their enclosure permanently and wander around the basement.

What to do, what to do.