“And a big white hen standing on one leg. And under the hen was a quiet egg,” a line from one of our most treasured board books, The Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.
Today was a momentous day for our little backyard flock of four hens. It was a day we’ve been waiting for… for 21 weeks since they hatched.
Someone laid the first egg, ever!
It was a small, perfectly shaped, light brown egg. I’m fairly certain it came from Dexter since she is the only one squatting and singing a clucking, egg-laying song. But there were both red and black feathers in the nesting box, so it could be Tollie, our one red chicken.
November is here and with it comes the first frost for my garden. I live in north central Texas in USDA zone 7b with an average first frost around November 10.
But I always flirt with danger, hoping to extend my garden season for a few warm season plants. With the impending doom lurking with the first freeze, I will be spending my weekend preserving what I can for the winter.
What’s thriving in my garden at the moment:
Fall okra. No kidding. I planted okra at least a year ago, but it’s just now coming up. [soon to be killed by frost]
Cucumbers … another one waiting to be bitten by the frost… Maybe I can make a makeshift vertical row cover… I had bad luck with my summer cucumbers because the aphids and mites sucked them dry.
Of course my favorite volunteer Porter tomatoes, god love them, they are tenacious, if anything.
Tomatillos. My first endeavor with this plant. I had no idea it would go all over the place. It’s growing habit is more like pumpkins with how it spreads and takes over.
And the ever-resilient Swiss chard. This stuff is hardy and fairest of all. It grows in the winter, spring, summer and fall. It tastes the best in early spring and late fall. It’s frost tolerant to about 25 degrees, which makes it a perfect choice for my winter garden! It’s also delicious, bright and beautiful.
[Editor’s note: it’s been far too long since I posted to the blog. No time like the present.]
Extremes are the normal with North Texas weather. There is constant clashing of warm moist air with cool dry air. The dry air sweeps across the western U.S., over the Caprock then down the draw known as the Llano Estacado and collides with warm moist air coming up from the Gulf.
There is a diagonal 250 mile-wide strip where these prevailing winds smash into each other.
I live is in the center of this strip, so it’s common to have a 40 degree temperature change in a few hours. Friday, November 22, 2013 was one of those days. (it was also the 50-year anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.)
It was still, warm and humid with a high in the 70s. Then what is called a Blue Norther showed up. The wind picked up suddenly and the temps dropped 20 degrees in 30 minutes.
These days, any form of moisture is welcome, even if it comes in frozen pellets of rain or snow. In a day or two the weather will warm up and the frozen moisture will thaw into ground-soaking water—something we need desperately in North Texas.
It is ridiculous when you think about the hullabaloo made over winter weather in North Texas. Every year winter shows up, freezes and ices everything, then is gone as quickly as it came. Yet we are bombarded with severe weather reports and warnings to bundle up, be safe on the roadways, and bring outdoor pets inside.
Everyone is hopefully anticipating a day to blow off school and work. However it is the opposite for nurses, doctors, insurance claims processors, wreckers, firemen, police and ranchers and farmers. Don’t forget the U.S. Postal Service always delivers – rain, snow, sleet or shine.
There is ever-increasing hyperbole and drama surrounding the extreme weather. Handy Husband always jokes with the next door neighbors that we will resort to cannibalism since “snowpocalypse” is forcing everyone inside for three days. Now after two days inside … I think I’ll emulate the Canadians and go outside even with a 100% chance of snow. Because I, like the Canadians, have cabin fever, and must go outside weather be damned (seriously, it’s only 30 degrees –I have wool socks and thermal underwear, it’ll be ok.)
A week ago (Feb. 21, 2013) Jdubs and I were out feeding the cattle. As we were looking for our last herd, we came upon a momma cow that had just given birth to her calf. She hadn’t even delivered the placenta yet.
We approached the pair, very carefully, because you never really know how a new momma will react, even if you “know” the animal. Momma cow was looking a little nervous but settled quickly. We sat close to the calf and watched him for a few moments. Then on occasion the Almighty lets us see a little miracle… This newborn calf stood up and took his first steps and we got to witness it.
A few minutes later he stumbled over to his momma and took his first suckle of colostrum. It was a precious moment and one that was worth a thousand hours in a classroom. These are the things that can’t be taught. They have to be experienced, witnessed.
We couldn’t stay long because the rest of the herd began to show up, which made momma cow really anxious. And she was hungry too. Momma cow and the rest of the herd haven’t had much grass to eat– we’re at the tail end of winter, just as the spring grasses begin to grow, not to mention the long-standing drought. Our cattle really look forward to and rely on the high-protein cubes we feed daily.
We led and fed the herd a short distance from the pair. When we circled back around to count heads, momma cow and calf had rejoined the herd.
We departed the pasture double-time, no need to freak out the newborn calf, that can’t see with the loud feed truck and noisy, bawling herd.
At the gate, I asked Jdubs if he had thought of a name for the calf. He very nonchalantly said, “his name should be Sombrero Potato.” I asked where that came from. He said, “the name comes from Mexico, mom. And he has a Mexican name.” And thus, we have Sombrero Potato. (I declined to point out that the Spanish word for potato is “papas.”)