Sunday, December 26, 2010

What can I possibly do for my garden in December?

chickens can eat dead weeds and scratch the soil

O.K. gardeners this should of been done last month but its still not too late to bring inside tender plants to a frost free greenhouse, covered porch or patio, or basically anywhere where the plants can continue to get light, but avoid the frost and harshest of the cold weather. Stronger winter resistant plants should be covered with a nice layer of mulch to protect them. A good layer of bark-chips or straw will suffice for perennials that have died down, however, for larger plants; they will need some type of covering. I am also listing 8 other suggestions that I myself practice every winter.

  1. This is an excellent time to tend to other landscaping items. Give garden paths a good cleaning, especially making sure you give a lot of attention to once shaded areas where leaves need to be raked up. Take a look at your sheds and fences. Do they need any repairs? If not, maybe a coating of stain or paint could be applied.

  1. Protect your water pipes by wrapping them up in old rags, towels etc. anything to protect them from the coldest temperatures. You can also wrap up the faucet tightly with a thick cloth when it is not in use.

  1. Be sure to feed the birds. Wild birds that visit your garden really need your help now and over the next few months. Their natural food supplies are at their lowest and water sources can freeze. Do not allow birdbaths to freeze over. If they do freeze, crack the surface to let the birds get to the water below, or even better give them fresh water daily.

  1. If you have plants under mulch don't forget to water them. However, do so sparingly as plants require less water at this time of year while they are dormant. Over-watering can lead to rotting of the plant.

  1. Winter's a great time to let the chickens into the empty flower beds and garden plots so they can incorporate organic matter into the soil as you dig to improve the quality of the soil. Avoid digging in very wet weather when the soil is saturated.

  1. Now that all the fruit has been harvested from your fruit trees and bushes, take the time to spruce them up with any required pruning. Make sure to prune all shrubbery and vines such as grapes and berries now.

  1. Now’s the time to buy seeds and get great bargains. Most seed companies make their new stock available in late November or December. Take the time now to browse through their catalogues or visit gardening websites and buy the seeds you want to plant in the spring.

  1. Last but not least take a break. You've had a busy year, put your feet up on a footrest with a hot cup of green tea and watch an old rerun on television. You deserve a rest! And look forward to starting all over again in January.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Preventing feather loss

Feather loss is a natural process with all birds. It is also an indicator that there may be problems in the management of your flock. This could be due to nutrition, the environment, social issues or for many other reasons. Most feather loss remedies require changes to the  management of your birds. Feather loss results in increased food consumption and less egg production. An improvement in feather condition brings economic value to the owner. Listed below are various reasons of feather loss. Keep in mind that lack of food or water is the most frequent stress causing feather loss.

    •     Moulting - This is a physiological phenomenon, which consists of the shedding of feathers, followed by replacement with new feather growth. It is usually accompanied   by a reduction in egg production or even a complete halt.

    •    Feather-pecking - Feather loss can be caused by vices such as feather-pecking. Once established it is difficult to control and prevention is the best remedy. Social order pecking occurs primarily at the head and is not severe. Severe feather pecking due to overcrowding, lighting problems, unbalanced diets and boredom will injure your birds.

    •    Cannibalism - With feather-pecking any subsequent injury with drawing of blood will attract further pecking leading to cannibalism. To prevent cannibalism it is best to isolate the sick or victim bird from the flock or cage. The injured bird should have cuts treated with antiseptic powder and the wound should covered with Stockholm tar or " NO PICK " to reduce further pecking attacks. Once healed, the bird can be carefully reintroduced to the flock and monitored to ensure pecking is not repeated. 

    •    Abrasion - Feather loss is also caused by rubbing against other birds or surroundings, particularly if the birds are closely confined. To reduce feather loss, avoid overcrowding  and eliminate all sharp and rough surfaces. Alternative cage materials may also assist, as feathers wear away at different rates when rubbed against different types of cage materials.

    •    Mating - During mating the hen may lose feathers by the rooster treading the hen. The feathers are torn from the hen's back by the rooster's claws. To reduce this feather loss, the rooster's claws need to be trimmed with nail clippers. 

    •    Stress - A number of factors lead to stress, which can contribute to a reduction in egg production and the onset of a moult. Generally a lack of food or water is the most frequent stress causing feather loss. Poorly balanced diets or mouldy feed can also bring on moulting. Lack of cool, clean water, even for a short time, can cause birds to moult. 

    •    Other - Feather loss can also be caused by chilling, overheating and poor ventilation. A good housing environment will eliminate temperature extremes and still provide good ventilation for the birds. Ill-health either from injury, disease, parasites or bullying may also contribute to moulting. Regular monitoring of your birds will minimize stress and reduce further feather loss.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Plant those onions now

I have learned that it is best to follow directions so I researched the Farmers Almanac and it says  - December 2010, 13th-15th Plant Peppers, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, And Other Above Ground Crops In Southern Florida, California, And Texas. Extra Good For Cucumbers, Peas, Cantaloupes, And Other Vine Crops. I happen to live in Texas so I planted mine. If you live in a mild-winter area like I do, you can plant seeds in fall through early winter and plant sets anytime in winter. If you live in a cold-weather area, you can start seeds indoors in winter and plant them out as soon as the soil is workable.
Onions like most veggies, like loose, rich, well drained soil. I plant mine in raised beds with layered mulch, soil, compost and straw. They like to be placed about 4-5 inches apart in a sunny location. Since onions are fairly shallow rooted you don’t need to water too deeply, but make sure they get watered frequently. Onions also like to be well feed, so if you aren’t planting them in a spot where you’ve planted green manure, you want to make sure you feed them regularly with an organic fertilizer or mulch them with grass. The bigger and stronger the plants, the bigger the bulbs.
You’ll know when it is time to harvest your onions when the tops have yellowed and have started to fall over. At that point, pull out your onions and leave them on the ground to dry for several days in the sun.  Once the tops have dried completely, pull them off the onion bulb, brush of the dirt and store them in a dark, cool, well ventilated area.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Your Goose is Cooked - Dinner that is

partially eaten goose
"As a child my dad always processed different types of birds for the holidays, we ate ducks, pheasants, quail and goose. Break the traditional routine and try a roast goose for Christmas dinner. I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. Goose, with its distinct flavor, has long been a European Christmas favorite for many years".

 Check your local Markets such as Whole Foods or search the web for pasture-raised geese in your area.

Roast Goose

1 fresh whole goose (10 – 13 lbs.)
Sea salt
1 thyme
1 rosemary
olive oil for basting
1 dinner fork (to poke holes in skin of goose)
1 onion (peeled, cut into large dice)
1 carrot (peeled, cut into thick slices)
1 rib celery (washed, cut into large slices)
1 bay leaf
1 orange (with the rind) cut into 6 sections
1 apple cut into 6 sections

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Tie the legs of the goose together with twine. Use the neck bone to make a quick goose stock, if needed for the stuffing recipe below. Next, using the fork, gently poke holes in the skin of the goose without going through the skin into the meat. Do this all over the bird (this will allow the fat to render off during the roasting process). Brush olive oil all over the bird. Rub the thyme, rosemary and sea salt over the olive baste. Stuff the cavity of the bird with the onion, celery, carrots, bay leaf, oranges and apples.  Transfer the goose to a roasting pan.  It's important to make sure your roasting pan is deep and strong enough to accommodate the goose. Do not use aluminum foil roasting pans because 3 cups of goose fat will render from the bird and, if spilled onto a hot surface, could ignite. Place the goose into the oven for 1 ½  hours to 2 hours or until done.  You may need to pour off the excess juice during the baking period. Remove from oven and let cool. Your goose is ready to eat.

Tip: Save the rendered fat from the roasting pan and use it in your gravy or stuffing.

Moms Wild Stuffing
1 box of your favorite brand of stuffing mix ( I use Stove top)
2 tsp. olive oil
2 eggs (well beaten)
1 large purple onion (peeled, diced)
2 stalks celery (diced)
1 large Bell Pepper (diced)
1 large apple (diced)
½ cup of raisens
½ cup of walnuts or pecans (your choice)
2 Tbsp. sage
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. chives
6 ounces chicken or goose stock (to desired consistency)
1 tablespoon butter
1 fresh sage leaf to garnish
Sea salt and white pepper to taste

In a large Bowl mix together the stuffing mix, with all the diced fruits and vegetables, nuts and raisens.  Now add the butter, olive oil, eggs, spices and stock and then mix well. Remember to pour the stock slowly until you have reached the desired consistency you seek.  Season with the salt and pepper. Scoop contents into a shallow baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes or until crispy. You may need to remove the foil to brown the top (if desired).