Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Incubating Chicken Eggs and Garden Update

     I started a batch of 39 chicken eggs in the incubator on Saturday, May 18th.  That means they will be due to hatch out on about June 8th as chicken eggs only take three weeks to incubate. This is far below the capacity of the incubator as it will do 300 eggs at a time. However, we can only handle a certain number of chicks.  The battery brooder that I have borrowed will handle about 32 chicks from hatching through eight weeks. I will feel very lucky if I'm able to hatch out 32 chicks from 39 eggs.   I will candle the eggs later this week so I can discard all of the infertile eggs. However, I am not counting my chickens before they hatch. Hopefully we will get enough pullets for us and all of the other poultry keepers in the family.

Antique Montgomery Ward 300 Egg Incubator

     I am really happy with our new setup for starting plants. I just finished setting out all of the cucumbers, zucchini, pattypan squash, and dill that I had started indoors. A movable grow light is the only way to go. These transplants didn't turn out leggy and spindly like my previous efforts. Even right next to a big picture window it just was never enough light. My recent transplants looked just like the ones you might buy from a nursery. This system also has a water wicking pad that draws water from a tray and waters all of the plants from beneath. Thus I only have to water the plants less than once a week and there is no danger of overwatering.  The only problem is the lack of sufficient room to do as many starts as I would like to do. Happily, I'm working on a second grow light setup to remedy that problem. My sweet daughter Rachel already contributed an additional grow light to the cause,

Fancy grow light weeks ago when I had just planted the seeds

    I've carefully examined all of our fruit trees and it looks like we have very good fruit set on most of the trees. The one big exception is our plums. I have grafted three varieties onto our plum tree, Shiro, Obilnaya, and Santa Rosa. The earliest to bloom is the Shiro and those branches set no fruit. Obilnaya is in the middle and it set less than half the fruit it did last year.  The only branches with good fruit set are the Santa Rosa. Fortunately, that should still give us enough plums for fresh eating and plum jam. Our plum season will just be shorter than it was last year as we won't have the succession of three varieties ripening at different times.  All five of my sweet cherry trees have good fruit set as well as the two little pie cherry trees.  Our "Korean" pear tree has set a bumper crop, at least twice what it had last year. Last year most of the Asian pears were only one variety, Chojuru, from the lower branches. This year we should have a much better selection as there is also a lot of fruit set on the upper branches. It also looks like the apples have good fruit set as well. It makes me want to give our honeybees and mason bees a standing ovation. Well done girls!

    While, I'm on the subject of honey bees, I just got home from doing a presentation on honey bees to a high school physics class. So you may be wondering how honey bees are relevant to a physics class. Among other things I explained how honey bees see light in different spectrums than the human eye. Hence blossoms that look red to us probably appear black to the bees.  The fact that they can see ultraviolet light actually causes patterns to be visible in what looks like a white blossom to the human eye.  This also allows the bees to see a color change in some "white" blossoms when there is nectar present in the flower. I think God had a lot of fun making honey bees.  I also demonstrated how a refractometer is used to measure the moisture content of honey by measuring the angle of refraction of light passing through the honey.  The kids asked a lot of good questions and of course it didn't hurt that  I took two frames of bees in an observation hive and passed out honey sticks.

    I had a chance to open Chloe's beehive yesterday while the weather was still warm. The marked queen I installed last week has been released and has started laying eggs. I have included a photo of "Chloe the First" below. Maybe instead of "Autumn the First" and "Chloe the First" we should refer to  their respective queen bees  as "Autumn the White" and "Chloe the Red". I'll leave that momentous decision up to the owners of the beehives. Neither of the girls' hives have taken much sugar syrup as they did very well off the big leaf maples. It is also possible that they collected honey from some other source as we had almost two weeks of very unseasonably warm weather. Many nectar plants are very temperature sensitive so they might have collected honey from something different this year.  Maple honey isn't very dark while some of the honey the bees collected this spring was fairly dark.
Queen Chloe the First and her adoring subjects

Note the honey the girls have gathered.


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