Thursday, August 25, 2011

Under the cover of darkness...

 We (and by we, I mean my husband) slapped up 1 hand made screen into the window, noticed the sun had set long ago and said "Screw it, the other 3 will go in tomorrow!" We (again him.. but I like to feel involved) packed away the tools, and set out to meet the task on hand...  moving day for the birds.

 Imagine the relay race in the Olympics..  except set out in a farm, in almost complete dark, with 2 "runners" (again him.. I'm too endowed to run and remain conscious, but I am great at living vicariously through his athletic achievements).. a 5'+ tall fence.. oh.. and the "baton" is actually a chicken.     
 Some how when designing the fence to the yard, "someone" coughMomcough put in 2 gates.. on only 1 side of the fence. To move the birds quickly, and without the extra time or potential issues that occur when chickens freak out in the living room when cutting through the house..  we had to do the hand-off over the fence. A tangent but... scotchguarding the couch was the best move my Mom ever made.
 When it is dark out, the birds settle down. They are basically blind in the low light. I was grabbing them from their comfy place, racing to the fence and handing them off to my husband. He ran them to the coop and lined them up on the roosts. Moving 34 birds took a little over an hour. We had the drive and the motivation.. provided by a skunk. 
 Closing the coop, we patted ourselves on the back and headed in to bed. 

 Anyone notice a problem with our setup?

 The next morning a major storm blew in, and we didn't have to worry. SWEET RELIEF! The winds howled and blew.. no chickens sliding across the patio like weather reporters covering a hurricane. About noon it cleared up and we could check on the birds. That's when we noticed the problem.
 While the roosts were measured, and they had enough room to be on them and not touching... we (and by we, I mean my husband) forgot to measure the ass to head overlap. The 2nd stringers were sporting crap caps. 
 We have to adjust that feature.. or add a bird bath to the coop. The birds are avoiding being a 2nd stringer in the meantime.
 Most of the chickens have figured out the coop is home. The guineas (stew pot gang) and their minions... have not. The relay race happens every night and will continue to do so until they get a clue. We (not my husband) realize that this may take up to 6 weeks. 

A labor of love I tell ya.

 Not to be confused with this...
A test of love.. fermenting tomato seeds.

  The picture isn't out of focus.. it is just that the stench is powerful enough to warp the lens. These are tomato seeds that are ready to be cleaned. The aromatic output wafting off this is enough to test any marriage.. or cover that pesky "improperly stored corpse" scent still lingering in the drapes. Container with a lid is a must.

 At this rank stage, the gel coating around the seeds has dissolved. Add water to fill the container near to the top, wait a few seconds, and pour the floating gunk off. Repeat filling and pouring off several more times. The "fleshy bits" tend to float.. as does tomato seeds without an embryo. Viable seeds are typically sinkers, but they need a couple seconds to do so.
 I then finish washing them off using a strainer under the tap (cold water). They get laid out on wax paper or coffee filter to dry. Avoid putting wet seeds on to a paper plate, napkin, glass.. unless you plan on watching them and moving them a couple of times in the next few hours. Otherwise the seeds will cement themselves to the paper or glass. 
 Drying.. I let my seeds dry out for a couple of weeks in an area that has good air flow and is out of direct light. Do NOT use a dehydrator. Heat over 100 degrees and you are starting to cook the seeds. Cooked seeds don't sprout.
 If you dry a larger seed at the same time as tomatoes.. you can test the bigger seeds and get an idea how far along they are. Seeds that are dry enough to be stored will snap when folded in half. If they bend (still pliable) they have too much moisture. If you get the moisture content to 8% or less (breaks in half when folded).. they can be frozen and still hold viability for decades. Otherwise these seeds can be stored in air tight containers, out of light, and in a cool location (constant temperature a big bonus.. want to keep the glass stage of the seed).. they should retain very good viability (80%+) for 10 years and longer.

 The "glass stage" of seeds is essentially when the seed is dried enough that it almost freezes time. It is a stage of dormancy.. with each strain of seed having their own activation triggers (temperature). This is how seed vaults are able to hold on to strains for decades before needing to grow the crop out to refresh their stores.

The sun is setting.. I have to head back to the farm and prepare for the nightly relay race. I am hoping to update you soon on things I have been foraging and collecting. 

I am hunting for a good applesauce recipe to jar up the mini mountain in the kitchen. If you have a good recipe.. please share!!


  1. So are you gonna cook the guineas?

  2. The more I read of your trials and travails, the more I'm glad my chickens are free range. They just pick a tree and roost in the branches. Anyone foolish enough to roost under another chicken directly above rarely repeats the mistake.