Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pullets First Eggs

Some hens begin their egg-laying career with little fanfare, while other hens require extra encouragement. Generally speaking, I do not fuss over my hens a great deal. It's true they have fabulous living quarters and excellent organic, locally-milled food, but I do not hug them, or hold them on my lap, nor do I sing to them, or read them poetry or write poetry about them (although I love the folks who do all those things). My girls are members of the urban farm team, and when their time is up, it's good that I'm not too attached to them emotionally. 

Andromeda (the Barred Rock pictured above) arrived at maturity and began laying a few weeks ago with nothing more than a happy little crow. It's easy to see when a pullet is ready to begin laying eggs. She'll begin hanging around the nest boxes, quietly watching the older girls. Andromeda prefers to be left alone to accomplish her morning ritual, dutifully giving us one medium-sized light brown egg. She minds her own business and rarely calls any attention to herself.

Evidently, not all the girls understand the working rules around here. Cassie (the Easter Egger in the photo above) has been like Velcro for the last couple weeks. She's always underfoot, rubbing against my ankles as if she's a kitten. She crouches down and waits for me to stroke her or pick her up. She jumps into the hen house to help me clean. She talks to me constantly, the happy clucking of a contented bird. Even when I'm picking beans outside the chicken yard, Cassie is right at the gate, chattering away some fantastic story. I knew she was getting ready to lay her first egg, and the blessed moment finally arrived over the weekend. There was a fair amount of squawking and drama, including a few hours in the nest boxes while she worked out the timing.

Until a few years ago, I never imagined that chickens have such unique personalities, every bit as distinct as their lovely eggs. We still have one more pullet to arrive at egg-laying maturity this fall. Since she's already a loud talker, I expect there's more drama to come.....

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Summer vs. Winter Squash

We entertained visitors at Red Bucket Farm over the holiday weekend. One guest asked, "Just how big are you going to let those squash grow?" The implication was that our squash had already grown way beyond their usefulness. I think the confusion is understanding the difference between winter squash and summer squash.

Summer squash are generally yellow skinned vegetables that grow in a variety of shapes---pattypan, crook-neck, straight-neck, and their green skinned cousin zucchini. This family of squash often grows in a bushy habit, and it has soft flesh. If not harvested early and often, the fruits can quickly grow to the size of a football. Jumbo zucchini isn't a crisis, it just requires a little creativity to use its prodigious quantity. (Try them in fritters.) Summer squash doesn't store very well. It's best to eat it promptly, hence it is called summer squash. Sorry that I don't have any photos of summer squash, but we didn't plant any this year.

Winter squash grows on long enthusiastic vines, and in a wide variety of shapes, colors and sizes. Our favorite is butternut squash, which we make into all things savory and sweet. The flesh of winter squash is solid, with a small seed cavity similar to pumpkin. Often the skin can also be quite firm. Winter squash is a longer growing vegetable, harvested in the fall just before the first frost. The little fruits start out green and mature into bright colors in late summer and early fall. Many winter squash will store nicely, adding to the variety on the supper table well into February and March. 

So don't fear large squash. And when you hear the meteorologist warn about first overnight freeze, you'll know I'm outside in the dark harvesting squash by flashlight.