Tuesday, February 27, 2007

In which long-awaited events come to pass

My carrots have sprouted!

If you don't garden, you probably have no idea how momentous this is. You see, carrots take so %&$#@ long to germinate that no matter how many times I plant them, they always fool me into thinking that they've failed. I follow the folk prescription of planting a row of radishes next to them in order to mark their eventual location. But the speedy appearance of the radishes only makes me more morose about the carrots' tardiness.

The only times the carrots haven't fooled me are the times when they have actually failed. It has happened more than once. When you're germinating seeds, you have to keep them evenly moist at all times. Try doing that with an outdoor plot in the windiest part of the year!

But this time there has been good, even germination: a soldierlike row of fine two-leafed sprouts. Enough for us, with maybe a few here and there to sell.

Supposedly the time for sowing carrots is over now. But I think I will try to get out in the garden in the next couple of days and plant a row or two of the tiny, round Parmex carrots I like so much. They reach maturity quickly, so maybe I can sneak them in under the wire. I definitely wish I had planted more earlier.

The indoor plant starts are coming along nicely, too. And when the time comes, there will be plenty of room for them in the hoophouse, because...are you ready for this?...there are NO MORE CHICKENS IN THE HOOPHOUSE!

Yesterday the s.o. and I were both working in the garden. The s.o. was planting onions, while I was applying pelletized gypsum to our acid soil. Suddenly, I got one of my whims. "Let's move the new chickens into the chickenhouse right now!" I suggested enthusiastically. To his infinite credit, he agreed.

I went into the chickenhouse and chased as many of the 21 chickens out into the yard as possible. I managed to shoo 19 of them out there before I slammed the door; the remaining two hens were laying, and I decided to leave them alone because I was pretty sure they would peck me if I tried anything. Then, one by one, we started carrying the new girls into the chickenhouse.

When all nine new birds were transferred, the s.o. and I joined them in the chickenhouse to watch and wait. After a few minutes, we opened the door again.

Our Light Brahma bantam rooster--affectionately known as Penguin because he looked like one when he was a chick--hopped in the door. We are certain we heard him say "Hello, ladies" in a Barry White voice. He strutted around, puffed himself up, and crowed a few times.

Soon the alpha hen--a Speckled Sussex named Dot--walked in and examined the new residents. She pecked one of them on the head, then stationed herself at the door to the chicken yard to regulate their comings and goings.

Eventually all the chickens began to mix a little. It didn't hurt that the new girls were huddled behind the waterer, and eventually the other chickens had to visit them because they became thirsty. When the new girls got hungry, they ventured out to the feeder and meekly pecked up some crumbles and scratch feed.

Eight of the nine new girls are New Hampshire Reds, completely identical to each other, a little shy but with delightful friendly personalities. The ninth is a Black Star we have named Etta. Etta is a character. While all the NHRs were still clustering in a corner of the chickenhouse calling all the other chickens "Your Majesty," Etta sneaked past Dot and checked out the yard. She took stock of her surroundings and immediately began sassing all the roosters. It's a good thing she's quick on her feet!

The s.o. and I eventually left the chickenhouse, but we continued to check on the birds until everyone went up to roost at dark. The older birds perched high, while the new girls clumped together in a corner. Peace reigned through the night. Now our chickens appear to be on their way to full integration, and I am very pleased to have a hoophouse again!