Well, after a week of constant internet problems, here's hoping I will be able to complete my progress blog!
Winter has definitely made itself noticed this past week. Temperatures have dropped, winter woollies are being pulled out of the bottom of the closets and heaters and fireplaces are being put to good use. Unfortunately, we don't have a fireplace but most houses I have lived in have not had fireplaces. We are lucky that our winters are considered mild to some other areas around the country. And we have a reliable gas heater! Snow is already falling in the south island and parts of the north island. We do get some icy cold nights where we live and so far our winter garden has handled it well.
Last week I planted out my little plot of garlic cloves which will eventually become roughly 3 dozen garlic bulbs. Traditionally, Garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year and harvested on the longest. I have recently learnt that if you plant your garlic out about a month before this date, you will give your bulbs a chance to develop bigger, healthier roots before winter sets in. This also means the bulbs will be bigger, hardier, and more disease resistant.

The very first time I grew garlic, I knew almost nothing about it. I planted them at the wrong time of year but amazingly they grew. Even though they were a lot smaller than store bought bulbs, they sure packed a punch! This time around I am hoping to get a decent outcome. I always tend to plant more than we need in case some fail but the good thing about Garlic is that, if stored properly, it can last a long time. I also have some red and brown onion seedlings that I will be planting out next to my Garlic if this fine weather holds out. Even though we have had clear blue skies this week, boy has it been cold! Our days are definitely getting shorter, the chooks are now starting to put themselves to bed at about 3-4pm whereas in summer they would stay out until about 7pm.
In addition to my garlic, I also planted some Buttercrunch Lettuce, Spinach, Brassicas (these ones are a surprise as I have no idea what seeds they are from), Curly Leaf Kale, and some Asian stir fry greens. I am pretty sure I see some that look like Pak Choy and Asian Broccoli but time will tell. These are the ones I rescued from our raised garden and they are looking rather impressed with their new home.
My Land Cress seedlings are not too impressive at the moment. I only ended up with 2 germinating out of 10. These are a Heirloom variety so I'm not too sure how fertile the seeds really are but I am determined to grow them. I also replaced my sad looking pole beans with Broad Bean seeds which I sowed direct into the ground. They are more suited to the cold weather so I hope we have a bit more success with this variety. I made a tepee out of bamboo stakes for them to climb as they grow. These also make great space savers as I can grow other vegies under and around them. If this lot of seeds does well, I may make another tepee and plant more Broad Bean seeds. I also received a free packet of Coriander seeds with the Broad Beans which I plant to grow in a little pot on the kitchen windowsill or on the balcony. If we get the OK from the property owner, we will be covering part of the upstairs kitchen balcony with clear poly plastic to create a mini greenhouse environment for some of our less hardy plants as it receives most of the days sun.
Apart from planting vegetables galore we have also been doing a bit of a clean up of the overgrown trees around the house. The previous occupants let them get a little bit too overgrown so I spent a few hours today sawing away and dragging large branches back and forth all the while being followed by a large group of overly curious chickens. I had to do some tricky manoeuvring at some points to avoid stepping on them or getting them tangled in branches. They really are that "helpful" lol.
I also have another DIY project in the making which involves making a bigger run for the Pekins house. After losing one rooster I noticed another pullet starting to get a cold. Yes, chickens do get colds and no, they are not contagious to humans. The main cause for getting colds, in their case is that they are mostly free ranging which means if they get caught out in wet weather (they are a little slow when it comes to taking shelter) their abundant foot feathering takes a very long time to dry again. And because of their forward-tilting bodies, their chests are likely to get wet too which increases their chances of getting sick. So now if I see rain clouds I have to keep them confined to their house until the weather clears. This is getting a bit trickier now that they are almost fully grown. On especially cold days they don't mind huddling together inside their house for warmth. But I don't like to keep them so confined, that is why I am planning a fully covered large run that they can use to have access to grass and hop around and stretch their wings while still being protected from the weather. At the moment our little Pekin pullet who is very close to laying age, is living inside with us in her hospital cage getting a lot of special treatment and enjoying the warmth until she gets better.
I'm not used to keeping chooks that require so much extra care and attention during the colder months but with their loving cheeky natures, they are definitely worth it :-)

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