Gosh, it’s a busy time of year, isn’t it? It seems like everything needs establishing in the spring – seeds need started, then transplanted, new garden needs tilled, fenced and planted, trees need planted, trees need mulched, hive needs assembled, chickens need a new coop, new chicks need a brooder and constant care, organic veggies need a watchful eye… With working one full time job, one part time job, heading up a local food group and doing all my wonderful projects at home, I’m starting to feel a bit overwhelmed and exhausted. Soon enough though, everything will be established, and we’ll just be maintaining it all. Which is a step down in the labor department, or that’s what I keep telling myself anyway.
So although I’ve been somewhat absent for the last month on the blog, life has been trucking along as past paced it always does. In addition to all the springtime chores, I am slowly making my way through a wonderful book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. (That means I read about two pages a night before I pass out from exhaustion). It’s a book that I highly recommend to anyone and everyone who eats (yes, that is all of us). It gives a wonderful look at a family who feeds themselves only local food for one entire year including growing a large amount of it themselves. It’ll open your eyes to how little sense our current food system makes and the reasons why it is absolutely imperative we change our ways. It’s incredibly inspiring.
The one thing that’s missing, though, is the wonderful challenges and tribulations we suffer as producers of our own food. The Kingsolver land is never plagued by pests or drought or flood-washing rains. Mother Nature is always perfectly cooperative, and insect don’t ever visit the farm. I’m afraid it gives a false sense of continual success to those who don’t currently grow their own food, and it leaves those of us who do rolling our eyes a bit. So, in that spirit, let me tell you about my trials over the past week or so.
First, three of my four chickens attacked one of my hens, Bonnie, in a BAD way. The first hard peck left a dime sized hole in the back of her head which immediately gushed with blood…. and we all know what chickens do when they see blood. Luckily I was still home before going to work that the morning, and I was able to get her out before she was killed. I brought her inside and washed off the blood, then put her in the new coop by herself to stay.
Two mornings later, I brought her inside to check out the wounds. What I found was a goopy mess of a wound crawling with little white wriggly things. I instantly thought they were maggots (gag!), and brought her inside to the bathroom to clean her up. I flushed the wound out with saline water, picked out the little white wriggly things with tweezers and applied a generous amount of antibiotic ointment. I kept her in a dog crate for one night, then let her stay in her respective coop away from the bullies the next day.
That same morning, I noticed that one of my tomato plants in my garden was snapped in half. I figured my little rat terrier, always right on my heals, must’ve stepped on the plant when he was following me around in the garden while I watered. I didn’t think much of it, but when I came home from work at lunch, I noticed two more. By the time I got home after work, 5 tomatoes and 4 pepper plants lay shriveled up on the ground next to the roots. A friend helped me identify the culprit, cutworms. I had never had them before, but these little buggers are destructive – in a big way! They wrap their little bodies around the stem of the plant and literately cut right through it, severing the plant from the roots. I went out after work (in the pouring rain) to fit little aluminum foil collars around all the plants that were left. I also dug around the soil in the ones that were cut and found these:
They became chicken food right away to poor Bonnie who was still recovering. We brought her inside that night, and noticed that she had lost more feathers, and my husband had a little tan bug run across his hand. Then we noticed a few on her skin. We noticed a couple week ago that her breasts were both picked completely clean, but we read online and thought she had done that because she was about to go through a broody spell. I had also read that it could have been linked to lice or mites, so I did another search of lice. I skimmed through the articles and kept seeing this photo and story from The Chicken Chick:
So, I kept looking at the base of all her feathers to see if I could find nits like this, and I never did find anything. That is until I actually read the article – the nits collect like this at the base of the feathers near the VENT. Since I don’t often examine the rear ends of my chickens, I hadn’t looked. When I did, I saw a huge clump of nits just like this (ugh!) and dozens of little lice running all over the place. Yep, you guessed it. The little wrigglies I thought were maggots were actually small little lice It makes me itch just thinking about it. Luckily chicken lice is not able to live on a human host. Still creepy-crawly though. We went outside and checked the others in the coop, and they were the same. Luckily we had some diatomaceous earth on hand. We dusted all the chickens until they looked like they had just left a bakery. Then we covered the coops. We’ll redust again in 7 to 10 days.
Then just today, I noticed a whole head of lettuce was gone, and the others had some serious holes in them. I found these guys on the underneath side. Cabbage worms. *Sigh* Organic gardening is just tough sometimes. I picked them all off and fed them to the chickens again. The chickens are getting extra protein these days.
So, as you can see there are plenty of trials and tribulations with growing your own food. If you grow your own food, you will experience these things too. Just know it’s completely worth it in the long run. We just had our first salad of the season almost completely sourced from the garden. I ate eggs from my own backyard hens. I held sweet little chicks. I poured a little bit of my heart and soul into the soil of the garden. Fresh air, sunshine and a connection with one of the most fundamental parts of human life. It’s truly a beautiful thing.