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Tuesday, July 22 (continued)

I’m not alone in the Plum Pit. Besides the stack of books MaryJane brought from the basement, the chickens are my constant companions. MaryJane calls them the “girls.” So the girls and I have a great time of it. MaryJane points out how the chickens like to take “dust baths.” They make wallow holes and flop around, making all kinds of ecstatic sounds. It’s a real comedy. Apparently this is how the chickens control mites. I need to thank the girls because their pretty pink and mint-green eggs made the salad even more delicious today. And I couldn’t have made the BakeOver Breakfast Puff “puff” without their eggs either! MaryJane’s free-range chickens are free to find things to eat all over the farm. But I’ve noticed the girls, like their human companions, have a real preference for the Plum Pit.

After dinner, MaryJane and I take a brief walk and I head for the hut with a two-gallon pickle jar full of cool well water. No more dehydration please.

Wednesday, July 23

I’m doing most of the cooking now, and that’s the plan. MaryJane insists that I need to learn to cook what I can grow. And she’s right! The old dish washing mantra still continues; good barter for cooking lessons from MaryJane.

This morning MaryJane brings seed catalogs and her garden record for me to review. It’s amazing the information they include. You can see the wide variety of vegetables that are actually available, but rarely on the grocery store shelves. I didn’t realize that people have been growing gourds for over five thousand years. Nor had I ever heard of black corn. Oh yes, there are two categories of herbs: culinary and medicinal. All this from one seed catalog! MaryJane said she tears out pages with descriptions of the varieties she orders and keeps them in her gardening book. If she can’t find the page, she inserts the seed packet instead. Good tip.

The garden notebook is an essential element of good gardening. Record keeping helps a gardener learn from trial and error, and avoid repeating mistakes. Garden notebooks also allow gardeners to keep track of crop rotations by bed. In the notebook, MaryJane keeps lists of what’s planted, when and where in the garden. She can go back and make notes regarding performance of one variety over another.

Today is plenty hot, and even the Plum Pit is warm. MaryJane’s chickens are moving slowly, and don’t venture far from the relative cool of the Plum Pit, although they’re trained to always go back to the hen house to lay their eggs in the nest boxes. This is really important with free-range chickens, or you have an Easter egg hunt every day of the year. MaryJane insists on checking the nests every two hours so the eggs can be refrigerated promptly after laying. The hens are gentle and don’t mind her reaching in the nest for the eggs. She keeps a wooden egg in each nest box to discourage hens from breaking eggs. It’s a capital offense for repeat offenders in any well-managed chicken house.






Peppers in the Greenhouse

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