The end of August has been eventful here on Guam. We’re back in a hard lockdown and last week you we were not allowed to exercise outside our homes. I realized as I listened to friends try to figure out how to get their exercising done I thought about the amount of daily exercise running a micro-homestead gives you. Bottom line if you want a good work out, own chickens. I’m in the process of building a mobile chicken coop and run for my four chickens that I got in April from Hawaii as baby chicks. These freeloaders should start earning their keep in the next few weeks and they should be prolific layers.
I already have a moveable run for my Barred Plymouth Rock chicken Emmie that a dear friend gave me. She’s an older hen but still manages to give me 5 eggs a week. She also gives me the best aerobic workout every few weeks. Emmie is an escape artist. This morning I was moving her pen and the door on the pen came unlatched. By the time I looked up she was out and the chase was on. Now I have become rather the expert in catching chickens. We have many wild chickens that live in our Mango tree, they however having freedom all the time and aren’t as desperate for the wide open cul de sac as my dear Emmie. I invested in one of those giant fish nets on a poll after the first few escape attempts.
The first time I chased her I was barefoot and it looked like the running of the bulls except with roosters, baby chicks, and the waddling Emmie trying to get away. So this morning I quickly grabbed the net, I keep it outside for just such an occasion. I’ve learned with Emmie the quickest way to catch her is to tire her out. The key is to not let her leave the yard in the process. This is made a greater challenge as I’m in the middle of a home remodel with many obstacles to overcome, concrete blocks, piles of dirt, scaffolding. It’s like mine own personal obstacle course with mud, and chickens. This is enhanced by the neighbor’s commentary who always happens to be working in her yard as she watches the show. Back to the chase, five times around the yard and I think she’s tiring out, I know I am and it’s already 82 degrees and the sweat is pouring down my face and back. All of a sudden I have a break out and she starts to head down the street. I get an assist by a horny rooster that pins her down. I think I’ve got her but she slips his and my grasp. She’s panting at this point and attempts a mid air jump to a piece of scaffolding. One to many crackers there pudgy hen. We’re on our 6th lap and going by the grandstand that is my neighbor giving color commentary and I trap her between two coconut trees. I lung with the net. She sits down in defeat, she lets me carry her back to her run and I reward her with more crackers and water. The neighbor kindly gives me her sprouted weeds that she and her mother are picking out of the lawn and Emmie gets a tasty morning snack.
The four other hens who I have dubbed the Johnson Girls after my favorite sea chanty quartet aren’t quite as adventurous yet. The last time they got out the wild rooster gang went after their virgin tails. I ended up chasing the rooster who was chasing the chicken who was now desperately trying to get back in her pen and get away from the rutting rooster gang. My exercise in regards to the JG Hens this week has been of the Noah’s Ark variety. My contractors have laid our concrete roof for our addition. Unfortunately with it being rainy season we haven’t gotten the gutters in yet. This has created a waterfall effect when it rains. Well this week Guam got two days in a row of epic rains. My water fall turned into Niagara Falls. I had left to pick up my weekly produce bag and came back to the JG Hens in three inches of water. I threw on my rain jacket and caught each one moving them from their run to their overnight pen zipped up in my jacket trying to keep them as dry as possible. Four trips around the yard for each hen and three more for their food, water and tarps. Luckily unlike the rain storm 2 weeks ago my storm drain had been installed and Harry and I didn’t need to share the house overnight with four disgruntled Hens.
My wild chickens give me a run too but it’s always in the house. Usually a wayward hen is trying to out run the rutting rooster gang and will slip in my open sliding door unnoticed. I have discovered hens on top of my china cabinet, the arm of my couch, and sitting on a barstool in my bedroom. Catching them is even harder. I had one last week fly up to a 6 foot tall pile of book boxes. She then wedged herself between the boxes and the window. After moving 8 60lb boxes I finally got her to fly out and chased her out the door, Chicken Aerobics and weight lifting all in one.
I picked my first Dragon Fruit this week. I have been waiting almost two months for this lovely pink exotic fruit to ripen. Here on Guam we don’t have many pollen carriers and the Dragon Fruit flower only lasts for one night. As a true homesteader you check the bud nightly and in your pajamas holding a lantern and a feather you help the flower get some action. For a military spouse with a deployed sailor this is like watching a good Romance movie. Harry loves to rub his head on Dragon Fruit, he even enjoys a bite every now and then. This week I also picked several star fruit. I have to beat the wild chickens to them each morning we have so many they just fall on the ground. If the chickens peck them first I break them up and give them to my well behaved hens that are locked up. I also picked my first long beans that I have growing in a pot, only a couple, enough for one side dish but eventually I’ll have a regular crop of my own.
My kitchen counter looks like a botany experiment. I have various plants in various stages of sprouting Currently I have sweet potatoes gaining roots I’m getting ready to start a raised bed of sweet potatoes, Pineapple tops in water also gaining roots they are going to line my fence under what I hope will be a whole fence line of dragon fruit, Micro greens that I clip and eat on my avocado toast for breakfast and the elusive Kang Kong. Kang Kong is like spinach it makes a lovely quiche it grows best in water but rumor is you can get it to grow in soil. I just need it to root first.
I’m burning the last of my summer Apricot Rose Yankee candles this week in anticipation of switching over to fall scents. I acquired the medium jar size candles in mother’s day gift boxes on clearance for $5 which is a steal for a Yankee candle. I pick up last season’s candles at their semiannual sales and hold them until the next year. I often save 75% using this technique. Even in the chaos of piles of moving boxes and (yes after three weeks I still have shoring jacks in most room of the house) I still try to decorate for the seasons. I also change out my table cloths on my kitchen table, and on two chests that I have, one sits in the kitchen next to my island and it’s the favorite perch of my dear cat Harry who supervises me while I cook. The other is an old steamer chest I use as an end table when watching TV. I always find interesting vintage table cloths at thrift stores and auctions. When we lived overseas in Italy one of my favorite souvenirs was a tablecloth in a local pattern or made by local textile artists.
My husband Mike and his crew successfully maneuvered the USS Emory S Land his ship into dry dock this week. He’s been “dialing a chef” to save money. Instead of eating out he bought groceries and I have been talking him through his favorite recipes including Julia Childs Petit Filet Mignon and Avocado Tuna Poke Hawaiian style. He just refurbished his bicycle and is exploring the local trails in Napa on the weekend. Well at least when they’re not on fire like they have been the last few weeks.
My biggest accomplishment of the week has been preserving my extra fruits and vegetables. You can read about how I did that here. My final total that went into the freezers we’re 7lbs of bananas, 1 pound of long beans, 13 pounds of granny smith and red delicious apples, 20 ears of corn, and I also cut Japanese Eggplant into slices that go still frozen on my homemade pizza’s and it adds a great smokey flavor to it.