Monday, March 11, 2019

Signs of Spring 2019

 This winter has felt extra long so any signs that spring is near have been especially welcome.  Somehow between the snow, ice and cold rain we've had a couple days of sunshine. i get out and hike on those days needing every little bit of sunshine i can absorb.

 The kids missed school again on Friday due to winter weather. Saturday was cold, dreary and rainy and then on Sunday the sun came out and the temps jumped to the high 60's!  We spent the day outside cleaning up gardens, inspecting our bee hives and hiking the woods.

Coltsfoot is one of the very first wildflowers to appear in the spring. Coltsfoot is native to Europe and is considered an invasive weed here.  However, it is edible.  The flowers can be eaten. They can be tossed into salads to add a wonderful aromatic flavor; or fill a jar with the flowers and add honey to make a remedy to help calm a cough or to sweeten a bitter herbal tea.  There are some reports of the roots and leaves containing toxins.
Hairy Bittercress is another early spring flower. Another non-native this plant is great for salads, salsa, pestos and anywhere you would use raw cress with a flavor similar to arugula.  Both the flowers and leaves are edible.

The bees have been all over the hairy bittercress, as there is very little pollen available to them right now.  The bees are mostly still surviving on their winter stores of honey, but on sunny day they are out foraging for pollen, and cleaning out the hive.

Another sure sign of spring is when the hens begin to lay again.  They've been on a break since November. i have been getting a few eggs each week, most of my birds stopped laying completely over the winter. As the days begin to get longer, the hens return to their regular cycle.

i've been really trying to focus on my egg colors. Last year i breed my olive eggers, marans and easter eggers in an attempt to get better egg colors. It seemed like the universe was against me.  i had a hen setting on 10 eggs and one by one all of the olive eggs disappeared.  i was left with 3 remaining eggs which hatched out into two girls and one boy. Of the two girls one is Maran and lays dark brown eggs. The other is a Maran cross of some sort and lays a medium brown sometimes rose colored eggs.

My second attempt at hatching out olive eggers and marans had pretty much the same outcome. One by one the eggs i was trying to hatch out disappeared, however there was no shortage of wild hens hatching farm yard mix chicks. Over 20 new chicks hatched out and i got ONE olive egger. She is third generation so her eggs are extra dark. i'm super thrilled, but was really hoping for more than one green egg layer. i thought for sure i'd have several shades of green.  Instead i have a ton of cream and light beige eggs.

The next sign of spring is when my wild hens start hiding their eggs. i'm really hoping to avoid that this year. i've already given away over a dozen roosters from the last hatch, and am going to be re-homing some hens as well once i figure out for sure who is laying what. 

After such a beautiful day the temps are dropping again, and tomorrow we are back to a low of 30.  i'm hoping to get some seeds started in the greenhouse this week, but with lows below freezing my seedlings wouldn't survive even in the greenhouse.  So i may just spend the week planning out the gardens. Yesterday's sunshine was very welcome, even my kids left their rooms (without being forced) to get out and hike.  i'm really looking forward to the warmer days ahead.


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