Thursday, September 22, 2011

Putting Up for Winter

My girls love their greens.  First thing out in the morning, they head straight to the green-grass area.  Never need to mow the grass or pull dandelions in their portion of the lawn.  They're all over that job.  And their yokes are orange!  Did I mention that my girls are chickens?  Those orange yokes in their eggs come from the dark greens they gobble up.  But by the end of summer their lawn is trimmed neatly nearly to the ground, and when the cool fall and cold winter slow its recovery even further, the insistent rains and constant chicken feet make a brown, sticky mat with only a suggestion of grass, certainly not enough to satisfy five greens-addicted hens.

Keeping chickens is old-fashioned and, therefore, very popular in our town.  Anything retro, mid-century or from back in the day is sure to catch the ear and the attention.   Putting up for winter is also coming back into vogue.  "Putting up" means canning, freezing or drying or otherwise preserving fruits and vegetables for use later, more specifically for winter when, a mid-century ago, fresh produce was hard or impossible to come by if your garden was under snow or just mud.

So, caught on the wave of a popular retro activity, I'm putting up for winter for my girls.  The freezer is nearly full, and I'm only half done.  May have to buy another freezer and don't know where there would be space for it. But hold on, I've gotten a bit ahead of myself here.  It's the strawberries' fault, really it is.

What do you put around strawberries for mulch?  You know--the stuff that keeps the moisture in the ground and keeps the berries clean?  Well, straw, of course.  Since the chickens use straw in their coop for a floor covering that is entertaining to scratch in and usually productive with a few kernels of grain that missed the thrashing equipment,  there was plenty around for mulching not only the strawberries but all the garden beds.

And being a smarty-pants gardener, imagine my surprise when shocks of green sprang up in the strawberries.  And in the tomatoes, the kale, the cucumbers, the squash, the basil, the parsley, the peas and the blueberries.  Small consolation for me was that I knew the stuff wasn't really a weed.  It wasn't harming anything so I let it grow.  And grow.  And grow.

Strawberries are in there somewhere.
My chickens like to show off and so do I so several times during the summer I had pulled a tuft of the grass, grabbed the  scissors, chopped it into little pieces and watched with satisfaction as the girls made it disappear almost before it touched the ground.  Folks coming to see the chickens in action were amazed.

I might be slow, but I'm not dumb, and eventually all the pieces would come together as an idea in my brain.  Finally they did.  Did a test run first.  The blender made a green hairball of the wheat grass like a cross between the Jolly Green Giant and Garfield's worst nightmare.  Better give it some more thought.  The girls like to eat bite-sized pieces of things they think are food though a little on the big side is no problem.  One of the hens once ate a slug the size of my thumb though it took her three or four serious swallows; and she stood, head down, breathing deeply for 15 or 20 seconds while the other hens looked on admiringly.  You could hear her thinking: I can't believe I ate the whole thing.

So really tough wheat grass into 1/2" long pieces?  Paper cutter to the rescue!  Chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop, chop is one of the things I get to do today.

Chopping it onto a flexible mat makes it easier to bag.
Bag it up.  Pop it into the freezer.  When all is harvested and processed, I hope to have put up enough to last through the brownest parts of winter.

Great way to use old plastic bags

By the way, wheat grass freezes perfectly.  The girls disappeared the test-frozen greens, thawed easily before it hit the ground on a recent hot afternoon, and didn't even need to pause for a few deep breaths.


  1. Replies
    1. And I didn't have any wheat grass growing this summer. Have to check into that!