The corn is as high as an elephant´s eye ….. well not quite, but it is standing at about metre tall and the ears are forming really well. The great thing about growing corn is that the stalks will make superb animal feed for the pigs and goats and we get lots of fresh corn on the cob. I am an impatient gardener so the fact that corn also grows very quickly means that I can see a difference in it every day and that suits me down to the ground.
We also planted some Swiss Chard this year and this has been a great success. I have never tried this vegetable before and I must say it is delicious. The leaves are better when young and crisp and it is a cut and grow plant, meaning that even with regular harvesting it will keep producing for many weeks to come. We simply boiled it for a couple of minutes and it was ready to eat. If anyone knows of other cooking methods I would be really interested in hearing about them.
Feeling broody …
We had a small flock of 5 chickens and a cockerel and we decided to add to it by hatching their eggs.
We bought a second hand incubator, which holds around 18 eggs at a time and importantly, turns the eggs automatically. We already had a small manual incubator but to be honest we didn´t have very good results, mainly due to the fact, that we kept forgetting to turn the eggs. The eggs have to be turned twice a day and while this doesn´t seem to be an onerous task it is surprising how difficult we found to keep to the routine. Often the eggs would be turned 4 times a day because one of us would turn them not realising that it had already been done. On other days they were not turned at all because everybody thought that some else had done it. Anyway it was a bit of a pain and so the automatic turner has been great.
The eggs are stored in a cool place until we have enough to incubate. They are then put into the incubator at a steady temperature of 37.4 degrees for a period of 18 days. After 10 days we candle the eggs to check which are fertile. The fertile eggs have a dark mass inside the shell and sometimes veins can also be seen, when a torch is shined through them. If the egg is not fertile you can clearly see that they are empty. The non fertile eggs are removed from the incubator at this stage.
On day 18 the automatic turner is turned off and the eggs go into ´lockdown´. Two or three days later they start to hatch. It is a most wonderful thing to see a chick emerge from an egg and start to toddle around.
Once the chicks are hatched we put them into a ´brooder´. In our case this is a large plastic box which is heated by a suspended halogen bulb light at one end. This keeps the temperature at about the same as the incubator at the heated end and provides a cooler spot at the other.
The box is lined with either kitchen roll or newspaper to make sure that the chicks have a grippable surface to walk on. The chicks need fresh water and are fed with a very fine grain chick feed, supplemented by the odd slice of cucumber.
It is amazing how fast they grow. After a few weeks, depending on the weather we move them into the aviary before introducing them to flock when they are large enough.
It is always a bit traumatic introducing young hens into the established flock as the established hens sort out the ´pecking order´. This entails them giving the new arrivals a hard time for a couple of days after which everything settles down again.
You can follow our progress on facebook and we have just set up our own You Tube channel, which contains a number of videos of our animals and the work we have been doing, together with all 3 parts of the ‘No Going Back’ programme that documented our move to Spain 10 years ago.
Follow us on……