Friday, April 10, 2015

Busy Day

Well, today was a busy one.  It's early in the planting season.  Heck, this time last year, I had just planted some Tomatoes in the Greenhouse.  This year, I planted on 2/14/15, and the Tomatoes are in their 2nd up-potting.

Seed Viability was an issue, I think next year I will need to splurge on seed, though I am planting enough that I should be able to save some seed, it may not be enough.  Most of my seed is a few years old, and they say it will last 3 years some of mine is past that date.

The greenhouse has Tomatoes, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Peppers.  All doing well.  Today was all about planting seeds in the ground.  I figure, if the weeds are growing, flowering and seeding already, my cool season crops can do so as well.

Today I put in Carrots, Kale, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Arugula, Green Beans, Dry shelling beans, and Peas.  I also started Hama Melons, Acorn Squash, more Broccoli (a family favorite) and Basil in the greenhouse.

I had always heard that a farmer is most concerned about the I get it.  If I plant right, I may get two cool seasons in, sandwiching around the hot season.

The cool part of this year, is on my walks around my small city, I am seeing many more homes, ripping up lawns, and putting in veggie beds! I have also seen and increase in backyard chickens! Viva La Revolution!

I know what I'm doing is right, when my wife told me tonight that she has been spoiled.  You see, she grew up eating food that had processed or powdered chicken base for seasoning.  She had to buy it when we saw it.  Now she can't eat it, she says it's too salty.  Well the first ingredient is Salt.  She much prefers food made with homemade chicken stock.

Sure that's really a DUH statement, but I just saw an ad on TV for Monsanto, and what I saw was sheer propaganda.  I hate getting political, but after all they have done, all the lies, it's sicking.

Well enough of that.  I will keep planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, cooking, canning, and freezing my harvest.  Monsanto got one part right, food is love, and because I love my family, I will continue to grow food.  Not organic (which is a label; shouldn't non-organic food have to be label GMO, oh wait, Monsanto is throwing money against such laws that would make that so.)  No, my Grandmother grew food.  I will grow food.

Today wasn't the nicest of days, yesterday was gorgeous, today cold (a storm front is moving in) but I was outside, playing in the dirt.  And the best part; I had this kid in a candy store grin on my face the whole time.

So if you're on the fence about gardening, start small.  Buy a tomato seedling, and plant it.  Care for it, and this July, when the tomatoes are bursting and beautiful, go out just after the dew has settled, and eat one.  I swear, you will never go back to store bought again.
Just sayin'

Go out and play in the dirt all!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Close Call

Wow, what a day here!  72 degrees on March 26th must have been a record.  Spent the day outside, weeding (man those weeds got a head start here) and when I came inside for some water, I noticed on my weather station, the temperature in the greenhouse was 114 degrees!  911 could not come to soon, so I ran out there, gave all my wilting seedlings plenty of water, and moved them outside the greenhouse while I opened the vents and door.

By 6:00 I was able to move them back in the greenhouse where temps had come down to 80 degrees, closed the vents and door and locked them up for the night.

Everything had perked back up, and disaster was averted.

Check your seedlings folks, they are just like little kids at this stage!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring has sprung...But where was winter?

Wow, if you blinked you missed it.  Winter either didn't come to the Pacific NW, or it went by and I simply didn't notice.

What I did notice, was all the activity around me, birds, squirrels, the hens continuing to lay prodigious amounts of eggs....well, I have been busy.

Weeding, prepping garden beds, and starting seeds in the greenhouse.

I'll be honest, saving seeds...well not my strong suit.  Oh, don't get me wrong.  I can harvest the seed, divide it, prep it, dry it, put it into containers...nope, where I fall down is storage.   I can't find a spot to keep them at a consistent temperature all year long, dark and dry.  As a result, I get inconsistent germination when I do plant seedlings.  So to compensate.  I plant way more than I will ever use, and hope 1 or 2 come up.  Usually way more come up than I thought.  This year, has been hit and miss.
 The first 3 rows are: Red Bell Pepper, Green Bell Pepper and Jalepeno Pepper.  Cauliflower did really well and my one lone Broccoli.  Eggplant is the last row and :( not so much as stub showing...
 This is a shot of both beds.  They rest on 1/2 inch insulation, and a heat mat under the tray.  The green house is otherwise unheated, so at night it gets to about 45 F and during the day up to 90 if I don't open the vents.
This is a tray of Tomatoes.  First row Brandywine (only one out of 4) Next is SunGold (also one out of 4) Gills AP (2 of 4) Yellow Pear (2 of 4) and finally Isis Candy (none) and Celery is the last row (also none)

Oh, I'll get by.  I planted 4 of everything in late February and early March.  I planted Brandywine Tomatoes, SunGold Tomatoes, Gil's AP Tomatoes, Isis Candy Tomatoes, and Yellow Pear Tomatoes in Late February (also red and green bell peppers).  Early March was Jalepeno Peppers, Eggplant, Broccoli, Cauliflower and Celery.

Well as of this writing, some of the Tomatoes have sprouted, a few very nicely in fact as you can see from the photo above.  The Cauliflower exceeded my expectations as the seed was almost 4 years old, and all 4 of them sprouted.  The Broccoli though, same age, only one....

Needless to say I think I need to work on a better storage system for these seeds.  What I am considering is a Faux root cellar.  Basically dig a hole in the ground, so the bottom is below the frost line.  Around here, frost line is 3 inches.  So I will dig a foot deep hole.  Some folks then just put a container in, and fill it with sand or straw to keep vegetables.  I am going to build forms, and pour a concrete base and walls.  Then I will keep my seeds in glass spice jars in the hole.  I will then cover it with a plastic Tote Lid, and rocks to keep critters out.  Thats the idea I'm floating here.

As for the girls, well they love their new home.  And my original thought was 3 of them could lay at the same time on the nesting shelf.  Well, at the start, they all wanted to lay on the Left side of the shelf.  Now though for the past week or so, they are also laying on the right side.  So, two can lay at once.  Which was what I had before with the two nesting boxes.  And yes, they do get a bit vocal when one wants to lay, and there is no spot, but thankfully my neighbors understand, and of course free eggs help out there.

As for eggs, we are getting 4 -5 a day! And as I said, no layoff over the supposed winter we had. So we have been giving them out; keeping the neighbors happy :) and getting creative with cooking.

Shameless plug here for a new blog of mine.

My wife challenged me to do a blog a-la Julie and Juliet, using up eggs by making cakes from a specific book we found.  If you like baking, and or music, stop by and see what it's about.

Enough of that.  Just wanted to update this post now before everything explodes and I have zero time for blogging.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Hen's got a new home!

So, I have not been as diligent in my blogging here as I would have liked.  It is an art, a skill, and mostly a habit.  One that I will need to cultivate.  

So first step, report on where the homestead is at.  As someone once said, a picture is worth a thousand words:

 The old coop now standing empty....
 While the old coop was still functional, it wasn't as easy to clean as I originally envisioned when I first built it.  Leaning over to clean out the corners, was messy and hard on the back.  That really wasn't the motivation that got me to make the new coop though...keep reading.
 The new coop was in the spot where a tired old rhododendron that was dying was.  I pulled the rhode, and cleared the site.  The coop is 6' deep by 4' wide.  And tall enough that I can walk into!  The pen is 6' wide by 6' deep.  Over all the chickens have a bit more room than they did with the 2 level coop before.
 This is a view of the interior, looking through the door to the nesting shelf.  Rather than boxes, I am going with a shelf, as 3 birds can nest in the same spot as two boxes, and the birds aren't that picky.  There are two roosts.  The birds will all sleep on the top roost, but can use the lower roost to jump up to the top one.  Their access door is just under the nesting shelf.
 The girls in their new pen, exploring!
 Here you can see the Chicken door, open during the day and will be closed at night.
 I've got this thing for Dutch Doors, so I put one on my coop.
 The coop sits between the fence, and one of the storage sheds.
Last view of the sheds and the new coop.

So really what prompted this move?  It's not really complicated.  First of all, the old coop sits over a sprinkler system we have, but haven't been able to use.  But mostly, it's part of the learning curve.  Think about it, we are never perfect the first time we try something.  We practice and we get better and better.  In homesteading, much of what we do is trial and error.  The first coop was good, but not great.  Do I think this one is Great; well right now YEP, but probably later on I will see things that need changing or alterations.  I already know I need to build a new watering system as the old one was tailored to the old coop.  But being a homesteader...I will reuse much of that system in the new one.  Much of this new coop is made from reusing materials for earlier projects that just didn't pan out the way I planned.

Now for those of you who can count, you may go over one of the photos and see only 5 birds.  One bird my White Rock (the only white egg layer I have ever owned) started eating eggs!  But only the eggs from my Golden Sex Link (the large dark brown eggs.) I did a bunch of research on this, it wasn't due to calcium deficiency, as the layer feed has oyster shell crushed into it, and I supplement by giving powdered egg shell back into the feed.  More so, if it were a deficiency, she wouldn't be targeting only one egg.  This was behavioral.  Now, being a behavioral psychologist, I never suspected I'd take a chicken as a client....needless to say it wasn't successful (a joke from my schooling days; How many psychologists does it take to change a lightbulb....just one, but the lightbulb has to want to change) needless to say, the chicken didn't want to change.  So now the chicken resides in my freezer (nothing goes to waste on the homestead.)  

Daily we are getting 4 - 5 eggs, still, but we have had a warm winter so far (January day temps have been 48 - 60 F.) We froze a bunch of the eggs earlier expecting a drop-off, that hasn't happened yet.  So looks like neighbors will be getting eggs here shortly!

I hope the chickens take to the new coop; tonight their first night in, I had to push them into the coop, and then put them up on the roosts.   I just went and checked and they are all perched on the top roost so far so good.

Good night all!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Chicken Update 3.16.14

So, the henhouse has been quiet....Housing the wife and daughters Holland Lop bunnies while the weather was at it's coldest.  But now the weather has warmed up sufficiently so that the water bottles aren't freezing in moments, so the rabbits are back in their hutch.

And it's time to start thinking about chickens again.  And boy did I have some grand plans!  I drew up plans for a brand new chicken coop that would sit inside an enclosed run that would measure 10 feet wide by 27 feet long!  Wow, I could have a mess 'o birds in this setup.  With that in mind, I set out to order my chicks.  I ordered 2 Buff Orpingtons, 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Barred Rocks, 2 Black Austalorps, and 2 White Rocks.

All was well in my little dreamland.  Then for some reason, I checked the City Regulations.  I had done this prior to getting chickens the first time.  Don't ask why I bothered this time, but I found in the past year the city has new chicken regs!  Some of the highlights, are they have to be in the backyard!  Drat!  My fancy new coop and run were slated for my side yard.  This means I am stuck with my old coop.

Now don't get me wrong.  There is nothing wrong with the old coop, but compared to the new coop drawings, it just isn't new!  Not that the chickens will mind, but I can't see that many chicks in the coop.  So I called the hatchery back and halved the order.

They will be coming mail order, my first time by this method, but I am told it's very reliable and safe for the chicks.  So now I have to do a thorough clean up job on the coop, as I plan to brood the chicks in the coop.  I have a heat lamp set up in there, and can block off an area to use while they are small, and can expand the area into pullet stage, and finally open it all up when they are full grown.

Really, I can't wait.  These past few months without chickens has been lonely.  I really miss the clucking and cooing.  Also not having Chicken TV has been boring.  Real TV can't compare.

And yes this post is about chickens, but as for a quick Veg update....I am going to get a bit of a late start this year, as I fear a freak frost is coming, so I don't want to start things at the normal time.  I will be starting much of what I grow in the Greenhouse.   Rather than heating the whole greenhouse with a portable heater, I am investing in Heat mats, and will heat them from below.  I figure that during the day, the temp in the greenhouse is in the 60's, but drops into the 40's at night.  But if the plants feet are warm at night they should be okay.

It's getting close folks.  I can't wait to get dirt under my nails again.  Spring is right around the corner and coming up fast!  Get out and plant something!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Winter Wednesday

So the Holidays are done and gone, The house is back to normal, and the weather outside is still frightful!  Regardless, the Garden Porn in my mailbox is starting to arrive, and that along with the craving for dirt under my nails, lets me know it's time to start thinking about Spring.  Yes it's just a few months ahead, but as any good gardener/homesteader/project manager (yes that's what we are in the industrial world) we must plan ahead to take proper action for fruitful gains!

Last summer I completed the greenhouse, so that will be useful for starts for this spring:

I will need to run some electrical out to it for heating, I am under no illusions that this greenhouse will be able to support temperatures needed for germination in February here without some additional help!

So in looking at my master garden plan, I keep one drawn out on graph paper in pen, then input my plant selections in pencil each year (yes I am a bit of a geek like that)  I can see what I planted last year, and where they were planted.  I then thought about what we are eating up from last year, what we have bought, and then dreamed  about what we can try to grow this year, that we thought we couldn't grow before.  I try to give myself one challenge a year, just to push the boundaries a bit.  This year, with the addition of the Greenhouse, I am thinking Melons!  I almost got there with Melons a few years back, but just ran short on time.  I think starting them in the greenhouse will give me the time needed to make this a reality....fingers crossed.

The rest of my plan is to grow: Asparagus (yes I will try again), Arrugala, Beans (drying), Beets, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Cucumbers, Celery, Corn (another boundary pusher), Garlic, Green Beans, Lettuce, Mache, Onion, Peas, Radish and Tomato.

Small plantings of Beets, Carrots, Lettuce, Peas, Arrugala, Mache and Tomato: This year these will be for fresh eating only.  Last year we had a bumper crop of Tomatoes! So we have plenty of Salsa, Tomato Sauce, diced Tomatoes etc.  Not sure as to what variety of Tomato I will plant, but will figure that out shortly.

My large scale planting will be the Drying beans.  This winter has been big on soups, stews, chili's so we have gone through our bean supply.  Yes I know Dried beans are about the cheapest eats out there, but I get so much joy from eating my own homegrown, that you really can't put a price on happiness.

Cucumbers will be a good size planting, as I am out of Pickles.  An while I am the only one in the family that eat's them, by golly I like 'em, and since I'm the gardener/canner, I'll plant what I like!

Dreaming this year, are the Melons, Brussels Sprouts, and Corn.  I have tried the first two, with limited success.  So I will try them again, changing a few things and see what happens.  As for the Corn, My brother tried it, as did my Neighbors.  Neither had success.  Not sure if it was weather, fertilizer, variety they chose, or location.  But I'll give it a shot.

This year I am going to try companion planting.  I have been doing some research on it, and it looks promising.  I will try to keep this blog updated with that as a focus.

Another task is to replace the chickens.  This fall, I butchered the chickens as the egg production greatly fell off, and one started to go Roo on me.  This time I am looking to get 6 - 8 chickens, as the coop is big enough for more than that, and 3 just didn't give me enough eggs.

All in all, I have my work cut out for me.  Lot's to do, and not nice weather to do it in.  Currently it is 44 degrees, grey and rainy.  So I sit with my coffee, perusing my chicken catalog, and the seed catalog, looking at the seeds I still have, and determining what I will need to order.  And with the end of my cup of coffee, I too will end this blog.

Dream and plan my friends, for Spring is just around the corner, and we will soon begin the rush to get seeds in the ground!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

To live life one must make sacrifices

Waking up this morning was a rude awakening...I realized much too early, that today was a chore day.  Now don't get me wrong, I like to work, it's honest and humbling, but some chores, while necessary are neither fun, but more of a reminder that to live is to take.  Yes, giving is part of it, but this blog is not about giving, nor recieving, it is simply about taking.

You see, I raise chickens, dual purpose birds.  This is a working homestead, with pets; but the chickens are not pets.  For the past 2 1/2 years, I have raised the chickens and gotten eggs for a good 1 3/4 years, reliably.  But the eggs have slowed off, even in the late summer when we had plenty of light.  Research shows that Chickens give eggs reliably for about 2 years, then they slow down. Natural.  My plan has always been to give my chickens a good life and one bad day.  Today was that day.

I had 3 chickens this morning.  I believe in and practice humane methods of killing the chickens, and processing them myslef.  I need to know that between the time they are taking from their coop, to the time  they die is minimal and the last thing they hear is my soothing hysterics, no load noises.  I try to stress the chickens as little as possible.

Is the prayer I say for their benefit or mine....I try not to think about that.

Is it better for me to be here, doing this; or blindly purchasing chicken from the store?  I wrestle with this constantly.  Yes my conscience could be clear (if I don't think to long about confined chicken breeding practices, or they mechanized way birds are processed,) but I wouldn't know what type of hormones, chemicals, and feed the chickens recieved.  Raising my own is a trust.  I trust myslef to feed them as naturally as I can, let them roam as free as I can, keep their coop clean, make sure they have water and security.  For this I take their eggs, and in the end their life.

My grandparents had no struggles with this.  You farmed, and Harvested the produce, raised livestock and butchered it; all so you could eat and live.  In a nutshell, to live is to take.

Yes I will miss the chickens clucking in the morning, running back and forth in search of who knows what in the grass.  But in March/April, I will start again, with new chicks.  Why?  Because this is a working homestead.  And while I wasn't born on a farm, I am a city kid, who wants more control of my food.  And sometimes, we must do things we are not comfortable with.  But I have a trust.  A trust to treat my animals, pets, family with respect and love.  I try always to do that.  But my livestock are not my family.  They raised to feed my family.

I have come to grips that to live, I must either kill or condone killing in my name.  I will miss the chickens, but I knew when they came into my life, that they were destined to end up on my table.

I can not pass this chore off to someone else.  I know that bringing home the chickens when they are a day old, that one day, I will have to take their life, so that I may live.  It is sobering, Humbling, and opens my eyes to the reality of life.  In this the season for giving thanks, and giving gifts; I give thanks that I have the courage to face my convictions, for the gifts my chickens gave to me and my family.