Monday, 22 April 2013

Halleloofah (How to loofah)

As the warm weather fades and days become progressively shorter and cooler, some things in the garden lose their summer glory.  Others, such as the lowly lacklustre loofah, prepare to shed their skin and reveal their true purpose and inner beauty.  The first of these transformations took place at Colliwat Urban Farm today.  Grown from seed spilled by a previous generation, this vine grew in precisely the right place: in the new corn/cucurbit bed next to the fence.  

The cooling weather is slowly turning the skins on a few of the fruit brown so I thought I'd quickly show those of you who haven't done it how I process them for their next life in the kitchen or bathroom.

1. Take one browned loofah from the vine
2. Pull the round piece off the bottom
3. Shake the loofah to get the seeds out.  Dry them and save for next time you need to plant loofah.

4. Split the skin down the side and pull out the loofah.  It should be loose from the skin
5. Rinse with the hose or tap (it will be a little slimy)
6. Sit out in the sun for some natural bleaching
7. Think of plenty of uses for your new sponge - use in the shower, cut up for scourers...
8. Compost when you're done

Friday, 5 April 2013

Five new feathered friends

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine known as Green Dean was wondering why on earth his chickens were squabbling more than usual.  Not to mention they were gobbling more feed down than ever before.  A head count soon revealed the suspected truth: five extra chickens!  Someone, somehow had taken it upon themselves to surreptitiously swell his flock of 13 to 18.  Now on acreage that may not have been such a bad thing, but on an urban block it posed a problem.  An increased feed bill, potential quarantine issue and introduction of infection or infestation was not a happy prospect so the chooks needed to go to a new home.  

I had been thinking of getting new chooks even before the loss of Wheelie about a month ago.  Declining egg production in my ageing flock meant we were nearly running out of eggs over winter, with the eggless period stretching for longer and longer each year.  The dilemma of ethics was what had delayed me increasing my flock thus far - to buy fertile eggs for the Cluck Monster and risk hatching a rooster; to buy sexed pullets or point of lay in heritage breeds; to rehome unwanted chooks from RSPCA and end up with more chooks without really solving the eggless period.  All this resulted in persistent pondering rather than decisive action.

Hearing of Green Dean's conundrum provided a solution.  He estimated the chooks to be less than a year old and he wanted all five to go together.  I had the space and was prepared to quarantine and feed them while they got used to my existing flock.
The new chooks not too impressed after their car trip
Alas, the sneaky chooks had other ideas.  After collecting them from Dean's I was running short on time so hitched up a fence in a corner of the existing chook pen with water and food and the shelter of a pumpkin vine.  When I got home from work however; I spied 4 out of 5 chickens roosting in the cage!  The only one that hadn't escaped was Hopscotch - the chook with a limp.  She gets around alright and can run on her leg which appears to be slowly improving but the height must hurt her to jump down so she was contentedly sleeping in a corner of the pen dreaming of the day when she too would escape to the greener pastures on the other side.

Quarantine aside, the only problem with the whole flock escaping has meant that the five of them now gang up on my existing 3 chooks when it comes to food time.  They are slowly starting to integrate with my 3 now beginning to challenge Hopscotch for food but the two flocks stay separate during the day. Although one of the five laid an egg while I was collecting them, we have yet to find any more.  Perhaps once they're settled in and finished their moult we will have eggs again.

Here's hopscotch - she's a little darker than the others

Feathers McGraw (after the penguin in The Wrong Trousers) Her comb extends over her head making it look a bit like she's an imposter with a rubber glove stuck on her head
The three below have yet to be named - let me know if you have any suggestions.  They are all Isa Browns and a bit hard to tell apart as you can see.