Planning a hatch

It’s hard not to count our chickens before they hatch, now that we have a batch going in the incubator. We bought a Little Giant 9200 incubator with automatic turner and fan kit on ebay, and so far it’s working fine. Getting the temperature and humdity stabilized took some time. Chicken eggs require a fairly steady temp of 99.5F and humidity around 30% for the first 18 days, then higher for the final 3. In a few days we will candle them, which means shining a very bright focused light through the eggs, to look for signs of development.

The eggs are a mix of our homegrown Black Copper Marans rooster with Barred Rock hens (the brown eggs) and BCM roo with our Easter-eggers (the blue eggs), and some we bought from a breeder online. It’s still too early to see development in any of them, and we’re not sure if the homegrown eggs are fertile since we didn’t pen Chewie and his ladies separately. But it’s a good test run of the incubating set up.

We’ve been growing garlic for a few years now, saving seed and replanting it, so that the varieties we’ve chosen become acclimatized to our area and will be more hardy and productive than seed bought elsewhere. The ‘happiest’ variety so far is Chesnok Red, a hardneck garlic that originated in the Republic of Georgia. It is highly regarded as a baking/roasting garlic, hold it’s shape while developing a lovely flavor and aroma. We haven’t grown as much of it as we have another favorite, Kettle River, because hardneck garlics are known for having short storage lives in comparison to softnecks. One catalog description of Chesnok Red specifically mentions a 6-month shelf life.

What we discovered though, is that Chesnok Red not only flourished through our soggy spring and early summer, providing us with plentiful scapes to make pesto, it also stores like a champion. There was one small stash of garlic left over from last year. Most had been eaten, dehydrated, pickled, etc. but we kept a few bulbs unprocessed to tide us over until this year’s harvest. The Lorz Italian were unusable. The Kettle River were soft and shrivelled. But the Chesnok Red, after one entire year hanging in a mesh bag in the pantry, was still firm and tasty enough to use in our dilly bean recipe. In the picture above, the full bulb was harvested this summer, and the cloves were harvested in 2011. Not too shabby!

It’s just about planting time, and we’re hoping the garlic will enjoy the high-nutrient content of our auxilliary hen yard. We planted a cover crop behind the hen house and wil till it in before planting. Garlic is a heavy feeder, so this should make it very happy.

It’s also nearly time to get the woodstove going on those chilly nights. Luckily Seven Trees has a resident chimney sweep. The PNW has had an unusually long stretch of dry weather, giving us a chance to catch up on preparations for the rainy season. Almost as grimy as a chimney sweep, Newt lounges in the driveway, accumulating a load of dust, pine needles and other debris, which she helpfully brings into the house and deposits on bedding, carpets, and most other horizontal surfaces.



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