January is a a great time to start contemplating plans and new projects for the approaching growing season. Even here in the temperate Pacific Northwest, January tends to be cold, dark and mostly wet. These conditions makes it easy to forget that the first of the seedlings will need to be ready to transplant in less then two months.
These dark months are a great time to make plans and think up knew projects for the rapidly approaching growing season. For the last two years, we have really tried to practice this advice, and it has really paid off. Last year we were able to produce all of our own starts from seed, and even sell a good number of the extras to our neighbors, which turned out to be a ton of fun!
All that being said, this January has been incredibly mild here in western Washington state. The average last frost date at the Homestead is March 13th, and in years past that has been fairly accurate. February is typically the coldest month, and we occasionally get frost and even snow in early March. However, our crocuses started to poke through the mulch beginning the third weekend of January (last weekend, as of this writing). With that in mind, we have officially started our 2018 gardening season!
We begin this year with a germination experiment. I planted five of each of the seeds I saved from last season, filling up two 1020 trays. I am curious to see if any of them sprout. The results of this little experiment will further dictate what seeds we will need to buy for the growing season. I am very hopeful, if these seeds germinate, we can have our open house/start sale without investing too many additional resources.
We finally fired up the incubator, a Hovabator and egg turner that we bartered for last year, and collected some quail eggs. We assumed they are fertile since our quail rooster is cohabited with the hens. We read that eggs can be kept at 60 degrees F for up to 7 days for collection. We did just that and on day 7 placed all of our eggs into the incubator. As per usual, we did a bunch of research on perfect incubating conditions and were rather underwhelmed. For some reason, all information on humidity in the incubator is very vague. We found that the temperature for the incubator should be set to 100-102 degrees F. Humidity conditions were the hardest to find. I even purchased Storey’s Guide to Raising Quail and other Game birds and they too, said nothing in regard humidity. Some sources suggested 25-35%, others said dry incubation and others just said it was not important. So we chose to go with the popular answer of dry incubating. After a few days of fiddling with the thermostat, our Hovabator stabilized at about 101 F along with 16% humidity. We are excited to see what is to come on February 1 and 2.
More exciting news–the chickens are starting to lay! We have been getting humongous eggs. The biggest egg in the picture below was a double yolker–our first! Its good to see the nesting boxes being used again.
We transitioned our fall chicks with the main flock. The transition went well and now everyone is a happy family.
Introducing new chickens to the flock meant that some of our five year old, none productive egg layers had to move on. They moved on to the freezer farm. It was my first time helping Paul. I plucked my first chicken and it was pretty easy. It made me appreciate my meals a lot more. During the harvesting, we take the opportunity to inspect the birds and we are happy to report that birds are mite free and their organs look very healthy. Our birds are healthy and that makes us happy!
February is just around the corner and we are looking forward to what it has to offer. Thanks for reading. You can find daily updates for our homestead on our Facebook page