Sunday, March 13, 2011

Naming Chickens Dos and Dont's

A couple of weeks ago, we re-purposed a chicken which you can read about here.  The woman who bought her was nice enough to keep us up to date on Swoope's progress (which was not successful) and educate us one some of the realities of the other purpose for owning chickens- The meat. Below is a letter she wrote a couple of days ago. Enjoy! -Jason

We have never put a named bird in the stew pot…nor any hen for that matter, but we had a problem w/ 3 mean roosters and they were dispatched within about 24 hours of attacking our children. Our then 3 year old concluded that mean roosters were very nice on her plate. Yes, she’s a country kid!

We had gotten a bunch of straight run birds (actually, they were given to us, but that’s another story) so we soon realized that we had too many roosters for the few hens we had and the kindest thing to the poor hens was to reduce the rooster number. Literally 8 roosters at a time would gang up on one hen and she’d get pretty roughed up before another one caught their eye.Apparently that’s what happens when you have more roosters than hens even though they all had 4 acres to roam on, they had other things on their minds. So, all but one of those roosters ended up in ‘freezer camp’ and most have ultimately made it to our plates. In fact, we watched a video of Daniel Salatin butchering chickens to hone our own skills in that department. (You can watch that video HERE)

I’m a country kid from many generations of country folk (at least on my mother’s side) so after hearing about how my grandmother (who was raised a city girl and married a country veterinarian) would go to her room and weep every year when they would kill the calf, I resolved that there had to be a better way. I learned quickly that if an animal had a name, I became too emotionally attached to eat them later. Hence, we don’t name anything we intend to eat. My husband is a country kid from many generations of country folk on both sides and has a hard time fathoming my difficulty. He’s not heartless by any means, but somehow he doesn’t form the same emotional attachment that I do just because an animal has been given a name. I wish I were that way, but I definitely feel I would be repeating my grandmother’s example if one of our named animals needed eating. I would prefer to sell them to someone else instead. It doesn’t bother me if THEY eat them even if they tell me they will, but I have no stomach for them myself. I know. I’m a wimp. Maybe I got it from the few city folk who have married into the family? -MN, aka Mother Hen's Mother

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Growing Thornless Blackberries

For the last year or two I've dreamed of growing fruits on our lot.  Unfortunately we have many large trees on our small property so for the most part that means I can't grow fruit!  I half-heartedly attempted to grow strawberries last year, but of the 15 or so plants I planted I only ever had 1 berry ripe at a time.  Big bummer. I did a bit more research and found there are a few fruits that can take part sun.  I've decided to do a trial run of four thornless blackberries (1 Arapaho and 3 Ouchitas), 1 fig (Celeste), and 2 rhubarbs (Victoria).  I will do a post on the fig & rhubarb a little later.  Here I will talk briefly about our blackberries.

Dallas Fruit Grower did an awesome post back in July 2010 on growing thornless blackberries in Dallas, so I'm not going to reinvent the wheel here.  This is more just to chronicle my experiences (and hopefully successes!) with growing thornless blackberries.  Going on his recommendation for the area, I purchased 4 blackberries from North Haven Gardens about 1 month ago when they were having a sale - I believe they were $9 each for one gallon plants.  I meant to buy 4 Ouchitas, but realized after I got home that I had picked up an Arapaho in place of one of the Ouchitas.  Eh, we'll use it as an experiment.  Ouchitas work best for Dallas Fruit Grower, but perhaps the Arapaho will be the best for me.  Only time will tell.

Picture taken on 2/22/2011
Will plant sunflowers (for chicken treat) to right of pathway in open space

I planted the four blackberries in our front yard along the north bed (see picture above).  The Arapaho is the furthest back, closest to the street.  NHG recommended planting with Green Light Root Stimulator & Starter Solution, a 5-15-5 rooting hormone & fertilizer.  Knowing basically nothing about blackberries, I followed their recommendation.  Only three days after planting these on 1/29/11 we had our "storm of the generation" here in Dallas.  It brought about 8 inches of snow and plunged the area into a deep freeze (and I'm talking temps as low as 8 to 10F) that lasted for something like 5 days.  I didn't protect these plants in any way.  They were completely at the mercy of mother nature.  And it appears they survived with flying colors.  So far I am very impressed.  I will update you on the blackberries progress as the seasons unfurl. -Carrie

Picture taken 2/22/2011

Same plant, picture taken 3/1/2011