Here on the Homestead winter is a season of rest. Many of our chickens molt during late fall and winter so they don’t lay eggs while they’re growing new feathers. Most of our breeds of chickens only lay one egg every sixteen hours of daylight. Right now we have around ten hours, so we will get an egg every day and a half, or so. Between natural attrition due to age and a very hot summer, as well as nighttime predators in 2018, we lost almost half our flock – from 98 laying hens to 52! We have turned the wide open coops into chicken prisons for nighttime roosting and we have cut the losses. We were almost ready to quit but are still selling eggs and will get at least one more dozen laying hens this spring. We have increased our egg price for the first time since 2017. Non-gmo, soy-free eggs for $4.25 a dozen. And our chickens truly free range during the day. We still invite our customers to come visit and see how they’re raised.
The garden is mostly at rest over the winter. We do have experiments going on to see how crops grow over the winter. We now know cabbages do extremely well and, God willing, will have them for a good winter crop next year. Broccoli raab does well also and right now we’re experimenting growing seeds for next year. Lettuces are still producing, with spring mix and arugula are doing the best. Turnips did well. Beets, well let’s just say we won’t give up trying! Radishes are slow but growing. We know kale does well, buy we didn’t plant dinosaur kale which is our favorite. So we experiment this winter in hope for next winter’s production.
We have potato onions and garlic planted for spring. Potato onions are a new crop for us. They are supposed to spread like potatoes and when we pull them up to harvest we will have some to eat and some to replant. Looking forward to see how they produce.
In the Homestead kitchen we are still fermenting kombucha, with our favorites being muscadine, cranberry-ginger and hibiscus-nettle. Still fermenting vegetables and making salad dressings and cole slaws with kombucha in them also. We are working with sourdough, and baking breads (sandwich, baguettes and Italian so far), crackers, rolls and biscuits. Looking forwards to trying English muffins and more forms of bread!
Starting garden planning, organizing the egg room, consolidating the freezers and learning to can meats are on-going projects. We’ve canned pulled pork, meatballs in sauce and meatballs in broth and can give them all two thumbs up!
How is your winter? Are you resting also?