Sunday, October 2, 2011

Twice planted potatoes

Caught in the act!
We have now officially planted our potatoes twice!  Yes, the same potatoes, before you suggest that of course we need to plant more than one lot.  For four years our hens have stayed happily in the orchard.  They have a house to go to at night and approximately half an acre to play in during the day.  There are bugs and worms to eat, dirt to scratch in and dust to bathe in - what more could a hen require.  Freedom seems to be the answer to that question.  Every morning for about the last month, seven of them and one of the roosters would race to the end of the orchard as soon as they were let out in the morning.  Some weeks ago I had clipped a wing of each hen in order to interfere with their lift-off ability. But, undaunted by this, one by one, led by Clayton (the rooster you have when you're not having a rooster) they would jump onto the fence, jump off it and then run to wherever they wanted.  They would run into the barn and help themselves to the grain in the sacks.  They started to lay eggs in the barn (barn laid eggs for those who want the technical term). They would run into the strawberry patch and dig for worms.   Yesterday they ran into the area of newly planted spuds and dug up almost every single one.  They did not eat them, they simply did it for the sheer pleasure of doing so. There were a few words spoken, not conducive to long life of said hens.  When the hens ran into the neighbour's property rather than back into the orchard when we chased them, there were several more words spoken, some of which were signalling instant demise of said hens.  To allow the hens to remain in the egg-laying force, and to encourage them to stay in the orchard I built a palisade of bamboo canes, linked with binder twine.  The binder twine simply allowed for take-off balance.  I then attached a ripped up sheet to the twine so that it would flap in the wind and frighten the hens.  Our hens are brave, so this was no threat.  After that, we took some bird netting and stretched it tight, attaching it above the fence and gate, so that any hen making a bolt for it, would be ricocheted back into the orchard or caught as evidence in the netting.  Three hours after their daily release from their house the hens appear to be still in the orchard.  Two of the slower-learning, perhaps more bird-brained ones are still pacing up and down below the fence and netting wall, perhaps waiting for it to magically open and allow them an escape route.

If we have managed to contain them, we can continue planting the garden for the coming months.  Unless one plans very carefully, and we didn't, there is not much left in the garden at this time of the year, and much of the new season's vegetables are not yet ready.  However, over the weekend, we did harvest enough corn salad, asparagus, baby silver beet and fennel to be able to serve garden greens for dinner.

Early Spring salad

Use what ever baby greens you can find.  If using asparagus, lightly cook it in salted water and cool it, everything else can be simply rinsed, dried and served.  Don't put fennel in this salad, but slice it finely,  lightly fry it and serve along side the salad.

To dress your salad, mix half a cup of Martinborough Manner Boysenberry Vinegar and half a cup of good quality extra virgin olive oil, crush a clove of garlic, and add this with a teaspoon of honey.  Either mix it up in the blender, or put all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake long and hard.  Drizzle this over the salad at the table, or allow diners to do their own.

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