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On the Farm . . . The Little Banty That Could

Here are a few farm highlights from the these last few weeks. The new bees came on the cold Saturday after the last spring share. Bill kept them closed up inside their boxes until it warmed up a couple days later. Now we regularly see them out foraging on dandelions and other spring flowers. Little fuzzy chicks are hatching daily in Aidan's incubator, and the tiny barn kittens are starting to venture outside to play in the sun.

In an interesting twist, Aidan intervened when a banty hen was sitting on her own unfertilized eggs and a duck wasn't caring for her four (probably) fertilized ones by moving the little banty to the duck nest. The banty seemed excited to take on this task, and was dedicated from the start. She'd meticulously turn the bigger duck eggs, making sure to pull them underneath her body so they'd stay warm. She sat on her new nest day after day. Aidan, worried because she hardly got up to eat or drink, moved the dishes closer to her. He marked the estimated hatch date on the calendar and counted off the days. Then he waited. We all waited. Finally the day came ... and went, as did a couple more days, with no babies. We all felt badly thinking of the energy the banty hen had invested in these eggs that weren't going to hatch, but Aidan wasn't quite ready to take them away from her. Five days later when he checked on her, he saw something move on her back. Looking more closely, he saw a little bill poking up from her feathers! Over the next two days all the duck eggs hatched! It had been a successful switch after all. Now the banty hen proudly parades her brood around the farm as if showing us all that she earned her name "The Little Engine that Could" or "Little" for short.

On the disappointing side of things, our free-range chickens decimated our early flats of beautiful kohlrabi seedlings. I had set them outside to harden off in anticipation of transplanting them in the gardens this weekend. Hardening off is the practice of acclimating seedlings that are comfortable in the protected environment of the greenhouse to the brighter and windier outdoors.

We were out working in the gardens, and when we got back, we discovered the little plants had been stripped of all their leaves. The chickens have never done this before but in hindsight, I'm kicking myself for not anticipating it because this year's chickens to be wandering farther off from the barn and pasture in search of tasty morsels.

Fortunately there's a second batch of kohlrabi not far behind this lost batch, but we are bummed that there will be no early kohlrabi. As for me, I've learned my lesson and will be putting flats of seedlings in a safer spot from now on.

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