|June 19, 2012|
In Your Box
Featured Veggie - New Potatoes
Recipe: Green Beans and New Potatoes
“I have not the patience to sit on a nest for twenty-eight days; and no more have you, Jemima. You would let them go cold; you know you would!"
- Mrs. Rebeccah Puddle-duck, The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck, by Beatrix Potter
With Mother’s Day last month and Father’s Day just last Sunday, Spring seems to be the season for honoring parents. In keeping with the sea-son, I’d like to honor a new mother at the farm, a mother whose dedica-tion to her children is impressive and inspiring.
Last Friday, our morning CSA and Farm Stand harvest was interrupted by a cry of, “Chicks!” Turning to-wards the sound, I was amazed to see a hen marching down the main field row with several tiny chicks in tow. “Wow,” I thought. “Where in the world did they come from?”
Unbeknownst to us, one of our laying hens had gone broody and hid-den herself away somewhere on the farm with a clutch of eggs, only to emerge on Friday with her newly hatched chicks. What I find amazing and humbling is that she managed this all on her own, with no help from us.
Sitting on eggs is a labor of love. The incubation period for chicken eggs is 21 days. For three full weeks, a hen sits on her clutch of eggs to keep them warm and safe from predators, leaving her nest only rarely to eat or drink.
Now that our mother hen has emerged from hiding with her newborn chicks, I have had the privilege of watching her care for her babies. She is quite protective of her flock, clucking angrily when I approach. Perhaps most self-less is her behavior at meal time. Mama Hen removes an individual grain of food from the dish and places it on the ground at the feet of a chick. One grain at a time, she feeds her 10 babies. Watching Mama Hen, I feel an absurd sense of pride, as if I, rather than pure instinct, somehow taught her how to care for her chicks.
Hens have gotten a bad rap. Phrases like “henpecked” and “mother hen” have negative connotations, suggesting nagging or overprotective fussing. Watching our mother hen for the last few days, I would say that her chicks are darn lucky to be so well cared for. If that’s being henpecked, so be it.
The surprise arrival of 10 chicks was the biggest, but not the only, news on the farm this week. Early in the week, a brush fire started along the creek, just off the farm. Fortunately, fire crews responded rapidly and put the flames out before the fire spread widely.
The fire was a reminder of just how hot and dry conditions are right now, not that we really needed a reminder. Keeping our crops watered is nearly a full-time job for one of our apprentices, and it’s been so hot in the daytime that we are grazing the cows and sheep at night to keep them cooler. The upside of all this heat is that our summer crops are thriving. Squash and cucumbers are plentiful, Padron peppers are ripe, and tomatoes are getting close to harvest size (but still green—sorry!).