Monday, August 29, 2011

Where Corn is Not King

That would be my garden.  The last time I planted corn was about nine years ago in a tiny little plot in our city backyard, and all it produced was corn smut (a nasty, bulbous fungus that grows on the stalks).  So now that I have a huge garden, I had high hopes for a nice non-GMO corn crop and lots of golden, frozen kernels for the winter.

Alas, my hopes have been dashed by either heat or bugs or improper row spacing - I'm not sure which is the culprit.  I have about six rows of corn, and most of the ears look something like this:

Kind of like a mouthful of missing teeth, ya know?
Besides sparsely formed kernels, many of the ears have kernels that are not fully formed at all, yet the silk (brownish tuft on the top of the ear) has dried, indicating it's ready to pick.  From what I've read, this can be due to poor pollination, which can be due to terribly hot weather (had lots this summer), or insects, or poor row spacing.  Basically, the tassels (stuff on tops of the stalks) pollinate the silk below, which run to the kernels.  And every kernel must be pollinated.  Though the poor development of my corn may be due to a number of factors, I'd love to be able to pinpoint the main one.

Next year, I plan to plant a different variety, plant more rows, and try to be more proactive in controlling the insects.  And lest I sound too morose, the rest of my garden fared better.  Report coming soon!

I'm linking up with Homestead Revival's Barn Hop; click below to visit!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Where I've Been This Summer

Recently I was looking back at the number of posts from last summer, and man, have I gotten slack!  But there's a good reason for it...actually, several good reasons.  And it's not because I don't love to write/blog and hear from you.  Simply put, life took over.

Many of you know that amongst all the farming and gardening activity, we've also been trying to renovate the house.  When we moved in last year, we found major termite damage and had to rip up both drywall and the floors in two rooms and the front hall.  Though we reinstalled floors and drywall this winter, this summer we've had much of the plumbing redone (hence more drywall to replace) and also closed off a doorway and reinstalled most of the trim we'd salvaged.  It may not sound like much, but it's time-consuming and meticulous work.  And we're not even close to being finished.

As the summer comes to a close and I need to start thinking about school and canning food for winter (and hopefully weeding the garden one last time), we're left with much yet to accomplish indoors.  Right now our number one priority is to organize and move our "stuff" to another room so that Byron can install the rest of the hardwood floors downstairs. 

Here's the hall now:

And the parlor (please excuse both the photo quality and the upholstery; these second-hand sofa and chairs will be getting a facelift this winter!):

These are still works in progress, but if you'd like to see what the parlor and hall looked like a year ago, click here.

And after much deliberation, we decided that the room that was previously the dining room would not, after all, become the study.  Because it doesn't get much natural light, we decided to make it our bedroom.  We've had to go old school with wardrobes, but it has a fireplace and loads of character, so it works well for us.

Thanks for sticking with me, everyone!  This has been a busy season.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Cornish Cross Meat Chicken

Last week we processed (that's a nice word for "butchered") our Cornish Cross meat chickens.  Though it wasn't the first time we processed chickens, it was the first time we processed any animal we'd raised.  And I admit, despite their lack of personality and live-to-eat mentality, I almost got verklempt when the first fat boy went into the killing cone.

Yet I survived and am writing this post to report on our experience with the Cornish Cross.  There are many complaints about these chickens out there, but do the positives outweigh the negatives?  They do, for us, more or less, but we're curious to try some Freedom Rangers in the future, just for comparison.

The good: Our Cornish Cross took about 7 weeks to mature, but we ordered all males and they grow faster than females.  Next time, we'll probably order a straight run (males and females) because it's cheaper.  Most of the birds dressed out at over four pounds!

The bad: Cornish Cross are not, by any means, hardy chickens; nor are they sustainable.  We lost three to the extreme July heat and ran a fan out to their field pen every day for almost two weeks after that fateful afternoon.  We plan to order earlier next year.  In addition, Cornish Cross do not reproduce well, so we'd like to find a breed that's both edible and prolific.

Raising Cornish Cross Meat Chickens: A Cost Analysis
Note that this does not include the cost of building the field pen, which we will re-use year after year; nor does it take into account labor.
Number of chicks: 52 (we ordered 50 and were sent 52)
Cost of chicks: $120.50 (includes shipping)
Losses: 5 (3 to the heat, 1 mysterious early death, 1 developed leg problems)
Number of Chickens Processed: 47
Cost of feed: $175.88 (non-GMO)
Cost of processing: $30 (we bought the propane)
Total cost: $326.38
Cost per bird: $7
Cost of locally raised chicken: We can't find pastured poultry here; we were paying approximately $12/bird where we lived previously.
Cost savings: $235
Taste: AMAZING!  The most tender chicken I've ever had!

To find out more about the butchering process, click here.  We don't have the equipment at our place yet but would like to someday.

As a side note, it seems that whenever we process chickens, we come away with more than we bargained for.  Byron fell for this guy on the way to the killing cones, and Jeff, seeing the look in his eyes, told us to take him home:

Meet our new rooster, a Partridge Rock Bantam (I think).  The old Barred Rock ladies have taken to him quite nicely.
I'm linking up with Homestead Revival's Barn hop again!  Click below to read some great blogs: