Red Wicket Market Farm is a small farm 25 minutes from downtown Columbus, Ohio, near Slate Run Metropark. Breeding Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans to the Standard of Perfection.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Getting Ready for New Flock Members

It's almost spring, which means we're getting ready for our new arrivals. I ordered waaay too many chicks from Townline Hatchery, and they will hatch this coming Monday. Then they'll be tucked into a special mailer box and be on their way to me! I've never ordered from Townline before, but they have a good reputation. We ordered some that will lay white eggs, some that will lay brown eggs, and some Amberlinks which are supposed to lay lots and lots of dark brown eggs. The Amberlinks are new to me, and I'm eager to see how the birds perform. I also ordered six Rhode Island Red roosters. I miss Bruce, our old RIR boy--I'm hoping that at least one of these six will be as wonderful a flock boss as he was.

I didn't buy any blue or green egg layers because this year we're going to breed our own. We've been cleaning and disinfecting our homemade incubator so we can fill it with eggs. Here are the eggs that I've gathered from the breeding flock (an Ameraucana rooster with white Leghorn and Blue Copper Marans hens):

Obviously the white eggs are from the Leghorns and the dark brown eggs are from the Marans. Can you tell that the hens have been out playing in the mud? The babies from the white eggs should lay blue eggs and the babies from the dark brown eggs should lay olive green eggs. I'm excited to see these first babies from the breeding program! I'll gather eggs for a few more days, then put them in the incubator to (hopefully, cross your fingers for me) hatch.

With the pending arrival of our new flock members in the mail early next week, we've been doing a lot of barn cleaning so that we have a nice, draft-free spot for the brooder. It's amazing how much junk a barn accumulates over the winter. I must have cleared out hundreds of old feed bags, potting soil bags, cracked and unusable cell packs from plants that I bought last summer, bits of twine and burlap from trees we bought, bits of wood left over from building projects, etc. We've filled several 50-gallon trash bags so far, and amassed a pile of things that need to be put away. It's the sort of job that makes you promise yourself that next year you'll do better, even while you know that you really won't.

Our super hot pepper plants are doing really well. I only had one Carolina Reaper plant germinate, but it's going strong as are our Fatalli and Yellow Bhut Jolokia (Ghost peppers). It's nice to have some green in my life.

My daughter tried a neat experiment last week--she gathered the seeds from her favorite sweet red "lunchbox peppers" and put them in some wet paper towels to germinate. Quite a few started to grow, so we moved those seeds to peat plugs. I think this is the first time she's ever made the connection that the seeds I buy in packets are the same things as seeds from a plant.

Have you pruned your fruit trees yet? You'd better do it this week before the trees start to break dormancy in March. Remember, a fruit tree is supposed to look ugly and gnarled. A lovely shade tree won't be nearly as efficient at producing fruit. Look up some YouTube videos and just get cutting! If you don't prune every year, the trees will get away from you and it's harder and harder to get them back into shape. I know it can feel like a terrible thing to do: I had to top a year-old peach tree this year in order to stop the weak top part from growing and get some good scaffold branches going. I was so nervous about doing it, and I looked at video after video to make sure I was doing the right thing first. However, I know that the top part of that tree was not sound and the branches that will now form the scaffold of the tree are at a much better angle with the trunk so they will not break off under a heavy load of peaches. The tree will also be healthier with the middle cleared out into a vase shape to allow the air to move through. Good luck!