Thursday, September 4, 2014

Molting Chickens, Caterpillars Becoming Butterflies, and Picking Peas

 In the garden, I've been busy with late summer chores and some late summer discoveries.

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The first chicken has begun her molt before winter, and she's unhappy and embarrassed about it.  She's cranky and antisocial, and refused to go with the flock when I moved them from their "vacation home," where I keep them when I'm out of town, to their chicken tractor surrounded by fencing so they can enjoy grass and bugs.  I tried to employ my usual strategy of chicken-catching: grabbing her by the tail, but her tail feathers came out in my hand.  I think she giggled at me snidely as she ran away.  At least she'll never know I put these embarrassing pictures online, unlike a child who might one day find pictures illustrating a bad day objectionable.  


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In the garden, I sowed cover crops in areas in which I removed spent crops.
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To the left is millet, which I'm leaving for the chickens, and in the bare soil of the garden I planted Austrian winter peas, mustard greens, buckwheat, and crimson clover. It will smother weeds, feed the chickens, and enrich the soil.
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While I was removing plants, I found these Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars on the fennel.  It's our second crop on this fennel this summer.  The first bunch made two chrysalises that we know of, and we observed one adult butterfly just as she emerged from the chrysalis.  
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We are all fascinated by the caterpillars, and my daughters will visit them every day to observe their growth and progress.  We'll keep the chickens out of the garden.  
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For a Kindergarten math lesson this morning, we counted 51 caterpillars, which is more difficult than it sounds, even for people who can confidently count to 51!
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This is the butterfly that emerged a week ago from the first "batch" of caterpillars.  I let the chickens into the garden just before I found the caterpillars, and I put up the netting and wire to keep them away.  Many of the caterpillars disappeared, but I found no evidence of chicken-intrusion into the netting barricade.  

And, I've been engaged in the ongoing task of picking, shelling, and freezing crowder peas and Lima beans.  
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Store bought beans and peas just aren't the same as fresh ones, and there's nothing easier for a vegetable side dish than pouring out a bag of peas or beans into a pot, adding salt, and boiling them until they are tender, usually 20-30 minutes.  
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